NEW YORK — Fourth-seeded Nazareth rallied Sunday to win its second consecutive United Volleyball Conference title as the Golden Flyers downed second-seeded Stevens in five sets 25-20, 25-27, 14-25, 25-21 and 15-9.
Unlike last season when Nazareth won the title, this time the Golden Flyers gained an automatic berth to the inaugural Division III Men’s Volleyball Championship. The Golden Flyers have won six of their last seven matches and will bring an overall mark of 27-8 into the postseason.
Nazareth is the defending Division III champion after winning the Molten Division III Invitational Tournament in 2011. Fourth-ranked Stevens, hoping for an at-large berth to the nine-team NCAA tournament, also is 27-8.
Junior outside hitter Alex Houghtalen led seventh-ranked Nazareth with 14 kills and junior middle Rob Kraft had 13, including three in the decisive final set. Three kills by Billy Gimello and two kills and a block by Kraft enabled Nazareth to surge to a 12-5 advantage in the final set. Kraft had a kill on the 13th point and Gimello added a kill for the 14th point. A service ace by Kraft clinched the match before he was named tournament MVP.
Freshman Luke Lawatsch contributed 12 kills and junior setter EJ Wells-Spicer had 37 assists and eight digs. Junior libero Dan Mowery had nine digs.
Nazareth appeared poised to go up 2-0 in sets after building a 20-16 lead in the second. Stevens, however, rallied to tie the set at 21-21 and went on to take a two-point win as the Ducks’ Etan Bennett had a kill and a block for the final two points.
Stevens dominated the third set as Ryan Sieffert had three of his team-best 13 kills for the Ducks. Nazareth pulled even again by winning the fourth set as a pair of kills by Lawatsch enabled the Golden Flyers to break away from a 13-13 deadlock. Stevens closed to within 19-18 late in the set, but Nazareth pulled away again on consecutive kills by Kraft and Gimello and one by Houghtalen on the 24th point. An attack error by Stevens enabled Nazareth to even the match and set up the decisive fifth set.