For the second straight year, EMU's volleyball men have opened the CVC Tournament with a bang, earning a gritty upset on an opponent's home court. Tuesday night, it was a five-set win over rival Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa.
The Royals entered the tourney as the three seed out of the West Division, with Juniata as the two seed.
Eastern Mennonite advances to the semifinals and will play at top seed and host Kean University Friday night at 6:00pm. Marymount and Rutgers-Newark play in the other semifinal, also in Union, N.J., with the championship match set for Saturday at 3:00pm.
Last year the Royals shocked tourney host Marymount with a 3-2 win in the semis before losing to Juniata in a five-setter in the championship.
After splitting their meetings during the regular season, with each winning on their home court, EMU and Juniata resumed their dogfight in the CVC Tournament.
In the first set, the men put a good defense on JC's Quinn Peterson, the national leader in kills, but Matt Vasinko was a perfect 7-for-7 in his attempts to lead the home team to a 25-22 win.
The Royals continued their highly efficient attacking in the second and dominated the set, 25-16. William Ragland (North Chesterfield, Va./Thomas Dale) already had 13 kills through the first two sets, while fellow outside Tim Callahan (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) put down nine.
In the third, the defense was even stronger, holding Juniata to a .000 team attack percentage. Dan Lutz (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) and Christian Taylor (Richmond, Va./Deep Run) teamed up for the set-clinching block, 25-19.
The Eagles stayed alive with a win in the fourth, although they needed extra points to do it. EMU fended off three set points before flipping ahead to serve for match point at 27-26. Juniata scored three straight from there, however, for a 29-27 final.
Fittingly, the fifth set had a few big swings. EMU jumped ahead 6-3, only to see the Eagles score four straight for a 7-6 lead. After JC pushed to a 9-7 lead, Callahan landed a kill to start the final run. He stepped back to the service line and dropped in a pair of aces during the decisive 7-0 streak, with a block from R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial) and Travis Abele (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee-Davis) capping it for a 14-9 lead. The Eagles managed one point, but Ragland finished off the upset with his 27th kill, 15-10.
The Royals ended with a .324 attack clip, led by Ragland and his new career high. He bested his previous career high of 24 by three kills. Callahan pounded down 18 kills to go with three ace serves. Abele had one of his best outings of the season, landing 13 kills. Taylor racked up 63 assists, averaging 12.6 per set. He tied his career high with the effort.
Lutz added seven kills and three blocks. In the back row, Taylor and Micah Buller (Richmond, Va./Douglas Freeman) each had 11 digs.
Peterson led Juniata with 20 kills, while Vasinko came in with 16.
EMU improved to 21-12 with the win, taking over third-most wins in program history. The program record is 22. Juniata ends the year at 19-13.