SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Gators took down Johnson & Wales (RI) 3-0 (30-28, 26-24, 25-22) in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon in a neutral match contest. Sage also dropped a match to #1 Springfield 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-19).
In the match with Johnson & Wales (10-10), Bailey Cecchi (Agawam, MA/Agawam) led Sage (8-7) with 16.5 points on 15 kills, one ace and one block. Ryan Guyton (Lockport, NY/Lockport) added 15 points on 14 kills and one ace. Shane Wenz (Valatie, NY/Ichabod Crane) was also in double-digit scoring with 13 points on 12 kills and two blocks. Casey Fitzpatrick (Haverhill, MA/Haverhill) had a match-high 41 assists with Melvin Tejada (Springfield MA/Springfield Central) leading the way on defense with ten digs.
Fitzpatrick's 41 assists are 7th in NCAA Division III among three-set match assists while his effort ranks 2nd in Sage program history in three-set assists behind Anthony Gerace's 43 vs Regis college (Jan. 2010).
Johnson & Wales were led by Kanila Chang with 14 points on 11 kills, four blocks and one ace. Matthew McCarthy also chipped in 10.5 points on 10 kills and one block. Cameron Ponce came up with 34 assists while Alex Seda led the Wildcats with nine digs.
In the first set, Johnson & Wales jumped out to a 4-1 lead until Sage tied the match 5-5 on a Wildcat attack error. The Gators then took their first lead of the set on a double block from Cecchi and Wenz to go up 6-5. After swapping points, Johnson & Wales went on a 4-1 run to tie the set at 11-11. Sage responded with a 5-1 run led by Guyton, Cecchi, Tyler Schnaible (Ballston Lake, NY/Shenendehowa) and Chris MacArthur (Ancram, NY/Taconic Hills) to go up 16-12. The Wildcats then had a run of their own to tie the set 16-16 on a Chang ace. Johnson & Wales built on their momentum and took a 19-17 lead on a Zach Turner kill.
The Gators weren't done yet as Sage went on 5-3 run to tie the set 22-22. Both sides went back-and-forth until Johnson & Wales took a 25-24 lead on a kill from Chang. With the set on the line, Cecchi came up with a huge kill to tie it at 25. An attack error by the Wildcats put Sage in the position to take the set, but a kill from Kyle MacKnight tied the set again at 26. MacKnight then hit another kill to put Johnson & Wales up 27-26, but a service error and a Guyton kill put Sage back on top 28-27. The Wildcats weren't done as MacKnight tied the set for the 11th time at 28. A service error put Sage in the lead 29-28, and kill by Guyton sealed the first set for the Gators 30-28.
With Sage up 1-0 in the match, Johnshon & Wales jumped out to a 13-8 lead in the second set. Sage built on their momentum from the first set and staged a 10-5 run on the backs of Guyton, Schnaible, Wenz, Cecchi and Fitzpatrick to tie the set 18-18. The Gators then took their first lead in 26 serves on a Cecchi kill. The Wildcats responded with two unanswered points to reclaim the lead on a bad set to go up 20-19. The next eight serves saw four ties and two lead changes before a McCarthy kill tied the set at 24 apiece. Wenz put Sage on his back and scored on two straight kills to take the second set 26-24.
Johnson & Wales showed resilience in the third set and came out with an 8-4 lead. With the help of Cecchi and Wenz, Sage tied the set at 8-8. Over the next 23 serves, there were six ties and three lead changes before a McCarthy kill tied the set at 20-20. The next four serves saw kills from Sage's Cecchi and Wenz along with Johnson & Wales Chang and Turner, so the score was tied 22-22. A Wildcat attack error gave Sage the edge, and two kills from Guyton sealed the set for Sage at 25-22 and the match at 3-0.
Against #1 Spirngfield (15-1), Wenz led Sage with seven points on six kills and two blocks. Guyton also chipped in seven points on seven kills. Fitzpatrick led the Gators with 14 assists while Tejada came up with a team-high five digs.
On the other side of the net, Billy De La Espriella had a match-high 12 points on nine kills, three blocks and one ace. Shaun Ermi was also in double-digit scoring with 10 points on seven kills, two aces and two blocks. Mike Neary had a match-high 31 assists while Johjan Mussa Robles led The Pride on defense with eight digs.
Set number one started out in close fashion with a 7-7 tie before Sage took its first lead of the match on an attack error to go up 8-7. The Gators stayed up by two until Springfield went on a 3-0 run to take a 13-12 lead. The set saw two lead changes until The Pride took their biggest lead of the set on an Ermi ace to go up 18-15. Sage responded with a 4-1 run led by Wenz to tie the set 19-19. A 2-0 run led by Springfield's Joseth Irizarry put The Pride up 21-19. Following a Gator timeout, Springfield's lead was cut to 21-20 on a service error, but it wouldn't be enough as Springfield took the first set 25-22.
In the second set, Springfield jumped out to a 12-8 lead before two Pride errors cut the lead down to 12-10. Springfield responded with an 8-1 run led by Espriella and Neary to take a 20-11 lead. Sage's Guyton broke up the run with a kill to cut the lead down to 20-12, but The Pride finished the set with a 5-1 run to take it 25-13.
Springfield jumped out to an early 8-2 lead until a double block by Wenz and Zackery Karl (West Monroe, NY/Central Square) cut lead down to five. The Gators built momentum on the block and went on a 12-7 run led by Guyton, Karl, Tejada and Schnaible to tie the set 15-15. Sprinfield responded with a 5-1 run to go up 20-16. A Karl kill cut The Pride's lead to 20-17, but Springfield pulled away and took the third set 25-19.
Sage travels to Wells on Wed., Mar. 1 6 p.m to continue their non-conference schedule.