03/23/07 — Men's college volleyball: Trojan sweep Division III Newbury

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Men's college volleyball: Trojan sweep Division III Newbury

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 23, 2007 2:09 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Two road-weary teams showed flashes of brilliance on the Kornegay Arena volleyball court Thursday evening, but Mount Olive had just enough vigor to turn back Newbury (Mass.) College.

Six-foot-6 middle hitter Jose Lanier delivered a match-high 11 kills and junior setter Zach Wilson dished out 40 assists in the Trojans' 30-21, 30-24, 30-25 victory. Mount Olive claimed its seventh consecutive three-set sweep in its last eight outings and improved to a program-best 18-5 overall.

The Trojans entered their final home match on the heels of a three-day, five-match road swing through New York and Maryland.

"I think we were still a little road weary from the trip we had this weekend," said Wilson. "We still haven't gotten our legs back; our emotion back. We came out and played dead the whole match.

"We played pretty much on skill tonight because our emotion was nothing."

Newbury coach David Hilderbrandt shared Wilson's viewpoint.

The Nighthawks (24-10) are in the midst of a nine-day, nine-match spring trip. They dropped a four-set match Wednesday evening at Lees-McRae and couldn't find their legs after a long van ride to Mount Olive.

"I thought we were a little flat," said Hilderbrandt. "I thought we hung in there, didn't give up and kept fighting. Mount Olive is a very good team. They were very fluid offensively and did a great job disguising what they were doing."

Hilderbrandt seemed especially complimentary of the Trojans' combination offense. The scheme caught Newbury's blockers flat-flooted throughout the three-set affair and caused numerous communication breakdowns at the net.

The Nighthawks, regarded as one of the best blocking teams in Division III, didn't have an answer for the Trojans' quick-strike offense. Lanier, Cesar Trigo de Serrano and Mike Carroll combined for 25 of the Trojans' 44 kills.

Lanier also recorded two solo blocks.

"We missed having that 6-6 middle (hitter) last year," said a smiling Wilson. "Jose takes over the net and it's a lot easier to play defense when you have a 6-6 guy taking away half the net. His blocks help a lot and he definitely puts the ball away.

"We owe a lot (of our success) to play in the middle."

Overall, eight Mount Olive players recorded one or more kills and combined for a .318 hitting percentage. The Trojans rank third nationally among the nation's Division I and II programs in hitting percentage.

"In all the tournaments and matches we've played, the other coaches say we have the most-difficult offense to defend against because no one else does it," said Wilson. "That benefits us a lot."

Newbury, meanwhile, wrestled with its transition game. The Nighthawks couldn't find a rhythm due to the Trojans' hard hits and hard serving, and got caught out of position at times on defense.

Middle hitters Ken McNeeley, who ranks seventh nationally among Division III hitters, and Mark Thomas didn't consistent get involved in the offense. McNeeley finished with nine kills and four solo blocks. Thomas added five kills.

"We're usually a little stronger in the middle and that's the bread and butter of our offense," said Hilderbrandt. "Ken and Mark are struggling if our serve receive is struggling."

The contest featured 29 ties and just nine lead changes.

Lanier's kill and solo block against Zac Falconer spearheaded a late surge in the opening set. Pedro Penate (eight kills) slammed a ball down the left line off Wilson's assist and later served an ace to put Mount Olive comfortably ahead 26-20.

After a net violation, the Trojans' Camilo Guerci ripped a kill off Matt Hartmann's solo block. Trigo de Serrano, Wilson and Carroll each notched a kill as Mount Olive closed out the first set 30-21.

The Nighthawks' Brian McDermand tied the second set at 16-16 with an ace down the line. The Trojans regained the serve on Lanier's monster kill in the middle and pulled ahead 19-16 on back-to-back aces from Guerci.

McNeeley's solo block against Lanier in Mount Olive's combination helped pull Newbury within 19-18. The Trojans answered with set-clinching 11-6 run that included two Penate kills, a Carroll solo block and back-to-back scoring plays from Lanier.

Hartmann's solo block forged a 14-14 tie in the decisive third set. The teams battled through four more ties until Carroll's kill put the Trojans ahead for good at 19-18.

Trigo de Serrano's kill capped a 12-7 run and gave Mount Olive its 15th victory against a Division III program this season. Newbury suffered back-to-back losses for just the second time this season.

"We stepped up when we had to," said Wilson. "When it got close, we found enough energy to pull away. We get a little spurt and are able to finish the game."

Mount Olive concludes regular-season play in a one-day tournament at Lees-McRae on April 14. The Trojans face the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the host Bobcats.