No. 11 Elmira sweeps EC Tri-Match, beats No. 9 Nazareth for first time
ELMIRA, N.Y. -- Elmira continued its recent hot streak, sweeping the EC Tri-Match on Sunday afternoon by defeating Wells 3-0 in the first match before closing out the event with a 3-1 victory against No. 9 Nazareth, Elmira's first victory against the Golden Flyers in program history. The Soaring Eagles improved their record to 21-7, the second 20-win season in Elmira's four-year history. The win against Nazareth was also EC's fifth win versus a top-10 team, the most in program history.
In the final home matches of their career, seniors Michael Messman, Ryan Nerney, Michael Vellutato and Ryan Gelenitis each recorded at least three kills in Sunday's matches.
Gelenitis recorded a team-high 14 kills between the two matches, 10 of which came against the Golden Flyers while Vellutato spearheaded the Soaring Eagle attack to the tune of 65 assists, nine kills, and two aces. Defensively, Vellutato led EC with 23 digs, while Dylan Kuhn was a force at the net, recorded a combined six blocks, two solo and four assisted.
No. 11 Elmira 3, Wells 0 – 25-18, 25-22, 25-19
For the eighth time this season, Elmira refused to relinquish a single set as they cruised to a 3-0 win against Wells in the first match of the EC Tri-Match. In the win, Tyler Smith registered the most kills with five while six others finished with four kills apiece. Vellutato had another 20-plus assist game as he closed out the Express by assisting on 26 kills while also making six digs.
No. 11 Elmira 3, No. 9 Nazareth 1 – 25-13, 25-20, 19-25, 25-21
Elmira traded points with the ninth-ranked Golden Flyers, leading to a 7-7 tie early on in the first set. The Soaring Eagles, behind the serving of Ryan Gelenitis, went on a 4-0 run to take an 11-7 lead. Nazareth scored two of the next three points to make it 12-9 in favor of Elmira, but the Purple and Gold took over the first set shortly after as the men roared out to a 19-10 lead. From there, EC cruising to a 25-13 first-set victory, which included winning the last five points.
The second set had a similar start to the first as EC and Nazareth exchanged points back-and-forth, neither team leading by more than two points until the Golden Flyers took a 10-7 lead off an Erik Griffin attacking error. The Purple and Gold's deficit hovered around three until Griffin redeemed himself by spiking a kill to make it a 12-10 game and giving the serve to Elmira's Tyler Smith. Smith would spark a 6-0 run, putting EC on top 16-12. The four-point advantage was all that the Soaring Eagles needed as the men were able to play side-out the rest of the set, winning the second set 25-20.
Nazareth refused to go away quietly, taking set No. 3 by a 25-19 score. The Golden Flyers used a 3-0 run, their second of the third set, to finish off the game, making it a 2-1 match.
Nazareth, riding high from its 25-19 victory, jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth set, prompting an EC timeout. The Soaring Eagles would respond out of the timeout, making it a 7-5 game just a few minutes later. Nazareth continued to hold a two point lead, 9-7, until Elmira subbed-in Evan Clarke to take the serve. Clarke, who on Saturday was on the golf course for the Elmira golf team, served-up the next three EC points, giving the Soaring Eagles their first lead since 1-0 in the fourth set.
Again, Elmira and Nazareth exchanged points back-and-forth until the Purple and Gold received a bit of breathing room after Mike Ellison recorded his only ace of the match. Ellison's ace made it a 16-14 game, swinging the momentum in EC's favor. With Elmira leading 21-19 Nazareth head coach Cal Wickens made one of the boldest moves of the match, replacing his primary setter, Nick McDonagh, with server Andrew Burnett. Burnett would record an ace on the very next point to make it 21-20, but his following serve would go into the, once again giving EC a two-point cushion.
The Soaring Eagles won two of the next three points to make it 24-21, bringing Smith back into the game to serve on match point. Smith sent a strong, knuckling serve over the net that forced a poor dig from Nazareth's Cory Randolph. The ball carried off the court and into the bleachers behind the Nazareth bench, giving Smith the match-ending ace. EC would win the final set 25-21, giving Elmira its first victory against Nazareth.
The Soaring Eagles were led by a balanced attack with six players recording at least five kills. Ellison and Gelenitis led EC with 10 kills apiece, followed by eight each from Dylan Kuhn and Griffin. Ryan Nerney, playing in the last home match of his career, tallied seven kills, while fellow senior Michael Vellutato chipped in five. Vellutato set up the attack all match long, recording assists on 39 of EC's 48 total kills, while libero Rob Shade tallied a career-high five assists. Elmira also tallied seven aces, three from Griffin and two from Smith. Defensively, Vellutato led the Soaring Eagles with 17 digs while Kuhn tallied six blocks, two solo and four assisted.