Hunter navigates past Kean
Newcomb recorded 23 kills to lead Hawks to national semifinals
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Hunter defeated Kean 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 27-25, 25-21) at Blake Arena on Friday afternoon.
Senior Christopher Newcomb led the squad with 23 kills on .405 attacking while fellow senior Eric Barty notched 14 kills and two service aces in the victory. John Gemegah led the charge at the front, tallying five block assists. Stanley Martinez had an impressive 43 assists.
“It was a huge victory for our team and I thought we really battled out there, the guys really fought hard,” said Head Coach Ray Bello of the team's first NCAA victory, adding, “We're excited about the victory but know there's more work to be done, we're going to get back to work and get ready for Springfield tomorrow.”
Holding a 2-1 lead in the match, Hunter found itself in an odd position down 6-2 in the fourth set. The Hawks were resilient though, slowly working back into the match and would tie it at 8-all on a huge service ace from Barty. A Kean blocking error on the ensuing play gave the Hawks their first lead of the set, 9-8. Hunter went on a 6-2 run to take a 15-10 commanding lead but as was the case all match-long, Kean came surging back into the picture. An attack error made it a 19-15 game and then another Kean attack error made it 21-17 in Hunter's favor. A huge solo block from Otsla put the Hawks up 22-18. Kean tallied a pair of points quickly on a pair of kills to make it 24-20. Another Kean kill would make it 24-21 but a massive swing from Newcomb resulted in the game winning point, giving Hunter the 25-21 win.
Hunter took the first set 25-23. After battling back and forth, the Cougars were able to leap out to a 10-6 advantage thanks to a couple of Hunter attack errors. Trailing 15-12 the Hawks took advantage of a Kean service error and then got two big plays from Barty as the senior notched a kill and then service ace to tie the game at 15-all. The teams fought tooth and nail until a kill from Newcomb and Kean attack error made it a 22-20 game in Hunter's favor. Following another Kean point, Barty notched another kill and a Cougar attack error made it 24-21. Kean attempted to crawl back into the game, scoring two more points but a kill from Barty sealed the deal, giving Hunter a 25-23 win.
Kean took the second set, 25-22. Another battle, Hunter trailed early and often but kept coming back. Down 17-14, the Hawks pulled to within one (17-16) on kills from Jerin Kallickal and Newcomb but the Cougars darted out again. Hunter would tie the second set at 20-20 when Barty notched a big kill and Hunter took advantage of a Kean attack error but the Cougars killed the momentum quickly tallying three points to make it a 23-20 affair. Hunter pulled back to within two (23-21) on a pair of Kean attack errors. Hunter returned the favor with one of its own and the Cougars registered a kill to close out the set, 25-22.
Hunter dominated early and often in the third but the Cougars refused to go quietly, forcing Hunter to work overtime for the 27-25 win. The Hawks sprinted out to a 6-2 advantage but the Cougars slowly crept back into the set. After Hunter established a 15-9, Kean kept chopping at it. A huge Cougar block tied things up at 19-all and after the Cougars established their first lead of the set, 22-21, an attack error from Kean and big kill from Newcomb made it 23-22 Hunter. The back and forth affair continued as both squads found themselves tied at 24-all.