February 21, 2012

Pioneers Force Fifth Set But Fall to NJIT, 3-2

Newark, NJ – The SHU men's volleyball team dropped a neck-and-neck five set battle Tuesday night at NJIT, 17-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 14-16.  Junior libero Adrian Fernandez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) racked up a career high 21 digs.  Will LeClerc (Fairfield, CT) did a superb job off the bench for SHU, tallying 13 kills while making just one error for a .500 hitting percentage.  Enzo Mackenzie (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) also had a solid night with 14 kills and a .400 swinging mark while Nick Hunt (Uniondale, NY) led the squad with 20 kills.

NJIT (6-7, 2-2 EIVA) boasted an efficient offense in the first set, tallying 14 kills and two errors for a .387 clip.  JT Turko ripped a match best 24 kills for the Highlander attack and his stat line also included 15 digs to complete the double-double.  The home team used a 6-1 spurt in the middle stages of the game to build a 19-14 advantage and finished the frame with the 25-17 victory.   

Sacred Heart (4-10, 1-5 EIVA) posted the better hitting numbers in the second set with 14 kills but the two sides ended up level at 21-21.  This time it was the Pioneers who surged to the finish, rattling off four straight points to take the game, 25-21.  SHU got back-to-back blocks from LeClerc and Mike Komlanc (St. Croix, Virgin Islands) to earn set point.  Komlanc closed out the night with six block assists and six kills to his credit.

The Pioneer offense went cold in the third set and committed eight attacking errors.  However, the red and white found a way to stay even with the Highlanders from wire-to-wire.  NJIT would earn set point at 24-22 following a SHU miscue but the Highlanders would return the favor on the next rally with a misfire of their own.  Turko came to the rescue of NJIT and notched a kill to secure the game for the home side, 25-23.

Sacred Heart got white hot in the fourth set, ripping a season high 20 kills in the game.  This time it was the Highlanders who managed to keep things close down the stretch and knotted it at 22-22.  Komlanc and Mackenzie hammered home back-to-back kills to earn a pair of set points at 24-22.  After NJIT saved the first, LeClerc insured there would be a fifth set in Newark with a kill on a set form John Lutjen (Smithtown, NY).  Lutjen also posted a career high in the match with 52 assists.

The fifth set was played just as tightly as the previous two games, with neither side earning a comfortable margin.  Hunt struck for a kill to set up the first match point of the evening at 14-13.  Turko again came up big for NJIT, supplying a kill to make it 14-14.  The next play would end with a Sacred Heart setting error and the Highlanders capitalized to end the match, 3-2, and the set, 16-14, on a kill from Chris Kaepernick.

The SHU men's volleyball team continues EIVA play this Saturday as they travel to Cambridge, MA to take on the Harvard Crimson.