Men’s volleyball stuns Emmanuel with Quarterfinals sweep

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Jordan Pagkalinawan

The Lions pushed through Emmanuel to secure a spot in the GNAC semifinals.

By Jordan Pagkalinawan

Days after losing to Emmanuel College in four sets, the Emerson men’s volleyball team walked into the rival school’s gym as the underdog—a No. 5 seed facing the No. 4 seed Saints in the GNAC quarterfinals. Looking for revenge on an even larger stage, the Lions delivered with a three-set victory. 

Emerson opened the first set in dramatic fashion, quickly taking a 4-1 lead off of back-to-back spikes by first-year outside hitter Ben Dorsey. Though they built up a 7-3 lead, it would soon wither away as Emmanuel sent repeated spikes and blocks down the Lions’ way. After a service error by sophomore setter Bayden Slavik, the Lions found their lead whittled down to one, 8-7. Emerson rebuilt their lead, separating themselves by five, 21-16, after a service error by the Saints. A Dorsey ace gave the Lions set point, and an Emmanuel service error gave the Lions set No. 1 at 25-17.

In the second set, the Saints put up more of a fight, taking the lead off a Lion attack error, 8-7, before junior outside hitter Neiko Pittman’s kill tied it at eight. The set was a true back-and-forth, with no team leading by more than two points throughout.

“I just tried to refocus them as far as the execution, where we wanted to be swinging,” Head Coach Ben Read said. “Early in the second set, we were too aggressive trying to swing around the block and making errors instead of just challenging the edge of the block, as we did in the first set and found some success.”

A double block by Jack Miessner and sophomore middle blocker Ramsis De Los Santos tied the game at 24, and the Lions took the second set behind consecutive Emmanuel attack errors, 27-25.

The Lions could sense they had the upper hand, but knew it would take a dominant final set to close things out. They got off to another hot start, leading 4-1 after a kill by Dorsey. The Saints responded accordingly, as a kill and consecutive Emerson errors tied the game at four. The Lions regained the lead off of a Pittman spike, but Emmanuel’s kill tied things up once again. 

The Lions were finally able to gain some breathing room, leading 13-9 after an ace by first-year defensive specialist Semaj Byrd. Emmanuel caught up, as two kills and an ace brought Emerson’s lead down to one, 15-14. Following a kill by Miessner, the Saints regrouped with a timeout, and came out spiking. Their kill out of the timeout was countered by one from junior outside hitter Luke Roehm, making the score 19-15 in favor of Emerson. The Lions led 23-17 after a Pittman kill, two points away from the upset. After reaching set point off an Emmanuel attack error, a lengthy rally ended in an error by Emerson. Though the Lions were not out of the woods just yet, they ended the set with a Miessner kill off of a Slavik assist. The Lions took set No. 3 at 25-18, defying the odds and upsetting Emmanuel.

Emerson was led by the first-year Dorsey, who was all over the floor with nine kills, three digs and two block assists. Pittman and Miessner had eight and seven kills respectively, and the offense flourished behind Slavik’s setting, who recorded 30 assists on the evening.

Dorsey said the key to his performance was “hustle, big time.”

“Being in the right places at the right time,” he continued. “Knowing where the ball was going. [I was] watching a bunch of film beforehand, knowing where [Emmanuel] went, and [another key was] being there for my teammates.”

Dorsey said that the team’s “efficiency at the net” was the most important factor in Tuesday’s victory.

“We had good blocks all the time,” he said. “We hit really well, and [we were] very efficient to the right spots. I love personally playing defense, digging their balls [whether] they were hard hit or soft.”

Head Coach Ben Read was impressed with how the team handled the playoff environment.

“The energy [and] intensity, being a playoff game, was obviously there, and we had it really focused right from the get-go,” he said. “The scrappiness, getting tips that we didn’t [get] on Saturday when we played them, we knew that was kind of their game plan … It’s easier to play when you’re up a few points, so it was awesome [to get the win].”

Read’s message to the team before they face the top dog in the GNAC? “Next up.”

“Wentworth is obviously a great team,” he added. “They’re first in the conference for a reason, they’re 12th in the country for a reason. They’re big, they’re good, they serve tough. They don’t really have a weakness. But if we play with the same energy [and] intensity and serve tough like we did today, we can be right there with them and maybe surprise them.”

Read also noted the lengthy period of time since Emerson and Wentworth met in the postseason—last in April of 2013, when the then-No. 3 seed Lions shocked the No. 6 seed Leopards in the GNAC Quarterfinals.

“We came back from two sets down, [and] won in five,” he said. “So it’s been a while. But if we play our game, we could be right in there with them.”

Dorsey said a potential Thursday upset relies on the team’s energy.

“Energy and teamwork is really key to beat Wentworth,” he said. “I’m 100 percent confident.”