ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Top-seed Nazareth rallied to defeat seventh-seeded New Paltz in the inaugural United Volleyball Conference championship Sunday afternoon 30-32, 18-25, 25-19, 25-23, 18-16. Sophomore EJ Wells-Spicer recorded 60 assists and eight digs to earn tournament MVP honors.

NC
Wells-Spicer

Nazareth, ranked second in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, improves to 25-3 overall following the victory. The Hawks, ranked 15th nationally in the AVCA poll, drop to 20-12 overall. Prior to Sunday's match, the Golden Flyers had defeated New Paltz twice during the regular season. Nazareth won in four sets Feb. 12th and March 5th.

In the decisive fifth set, the Hawks controlled most of the early action and opened a 7-3 lead. New Paltz maintained its lead and held a 12-8 advantage before Nazareth tallied six of the next seven points to take a 14-13 lead. After trading match points, the Golden Flyers put together consecutive kills by junior Billy Gimello and sophomore Robert Kraft to take a 17-16 lead. On the Golden Flyers' ensuing serve, the Hawks committed a ball-handling error trying to set up their attack.

New Paltz won the evenly first set, outlasting Nazareth 32-30. The Golden Flyers held a 16-13 lead before the Hawks rallied with four unanswered points. Jakub Chleboun recorded three consecutive service aces during New Paltz's run. The teams traded points before the Hawks' Mike Van Tyne connected on a kill attempt and New Paltz forced the Golden Flyers into a hitting error.

The Hawks controlled the second set after recording four unanswered points to break open a 9-9 tie. New Paltz went on to defeat Nazareth 25-18 thanks in part to a .579 hitting percentage.

The Golden Flyers' rally started in the third set. Nazareth held an early lead, 10-7, before New Paltz drew even, 13-13. After the score was tied at 17 all, the Golden Flyers rolled off four consecutive points to take a 21-17 lead and went on to the six-point victory. A hitting error by New Paltz ignited the crucial scoring run, followed by a solo block by senior Will Siwy, a kill by senior Hans Schroeder and a second hitting error by the Hawks.

In the fourth set, Nazareth opened an 11-8 lead following an ace by Wells-Spicer and a hitting error by New Paltz. The Golden Flyers had a six-point lead, 19-13, following an ace by Kraft, but the Hawks answered with nine of the next 13 points to close their deficit to within one point, 23-22. After a timeout, Nazareth secured the fourth-set victory following consecutive kills by senior Brian Bunch and Kraft.

Gimello finished with a team-high 19 kills, followed by Schroeder with 13 kills and Kraft with 11 kills. Schroeder eclipsed the 1,000-kill mark in his career with his 13 kills and now stands at 1,007 kills in his career at Nazareth. senior Ellis Wlash and Bunch each chipped in eight kills to the Golden Flyers' attack. Gimello also had a team-high three service aces.

Defensively, Nazareth clamped down in the final sets to frustrate the Hawks' attack. Sophomore Dan Mowery recorded a match-high 14 digs and Bunch and Wells-Spicer each added eight digs. Kraft finished with a match-high five total blocks while Walsh recorded four total blocks.

Mike Van Tyne tallied a match-high 20 kills for the Hawnazaks. Kevin Stross and Keith MacDonald also finished in double-digits in kills with 15 kills and 12 kills, respectively. Andrew Cassius had 60 assists and 12 digs for the Hawks while MacDonald recorded a team-high 13 digs. Chleboun finished with a match-high four service aces.