Endicott ends on 14-1 run, takes down eight seed MIT in three sets
BEVERLY, Mass. -- Endicott advanced past the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament and will take on the nation's top-ranked team in the second round after the Gulls swept MIT in straight sets (25-15, 25-20, 27-25) on Saturday afternoon in MacDonald Gymnasium. The win was Endicott's first in two NCAA postseason appearances as the Gulls are one of eight teams remaining in the tournament.
Endicott (19-12), who qualified for the NCAA tournament with an automatic bid by winning their second consecutive NECC title, will travel down to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania to the campus of Juniata where they will meet No. 1 Springfield on Friday at 12:30 pm for second-round action. Endicott and Springfield have met once already this season on day one of the Springfield Invitational with the Pride winning 3-0 (25-9, 25-12, 25-13).
Endicott's win against MIT, No. 6 in this week's AVCA coaches' poll, was their first in 10 chances (1-9) against top-10 ranked teams this season. MIT (24-7) qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history as an at-large bid after exiting the UVC tournament in the quarterfinals with a loss to Stevens Institute.
In Saturday's first-round match between the Gulls and Engineers, it was Endicott's blocking that proved to be the difference-maker as 13.5 team blocks forced MIT into a .048 team hitting percentage. The Gulls recorded 27 block assists with senior middle Mike Coniglione leading the way with eight while senior middle Travis Netherton, senior right side Josh Anderson, and sophomore setter Tyler Bacon each had five block assists apiece.
Offensively, Netherton was Endicott's leader as the senior struck nine kills with a .375 hitting percentage including the match-clinching kill that capped off a stunning comeback in the third set. Leading the match two sets to none, Endicott trailed 24-13 in the third as it struggled to combat MIT hitters Martin Krasuski, Andrew Busse and Alex Klein, who combined for 10 kills in the set. With Bacon on the service line, Endicott slowly chipped away at the MIT lead by rattling off six consecutive points before the Engineers called their first timeout of the set. Five of those points came off MIT attacking errors.
Three more points for Endicott made it 24-22 to force another Engineers timeout as Bacon served up an ace, Anderson delivered one of his five kills, and another error cut the Engineers lead down to two. Two more errors after MIT's final timeout tied the match, then a Netherton kill gave Endicott their first lead of the third set. Krasuski would finally stop the bleeding with his seventh kill of the match to stop the 11-0 Endicott run but another attacking error, MIT's 11th of the set, set up the final point of the match. An over pass helped set up the Gulls offense as Netherton got over the block and put down his ninth kill off of Bacon's 22nd assist to send Endicott into the Second Round.
The Gulls were aided by seven kills, seven digs, three block assists, and a .957 serve receive from sophomore outside John Osborne as well as a career-high 12 digs from senior Brennan Lowe. Lowe also contributed with a perfect serve-receive on 17 attempts.
Gulls senior libero Aaron Jessee averaged 4.33 digs per set with 13 in the win as well as 11 successful serve-receives.
MIT got eight kills from Klein and seven apiece for both Krasuski and Siebert. Senior setter Paul Syta had a match-high 25 assists and 15 digs with six kills on 12 errorless swings (.500). Sophomore libero Brendan Chang had 13 digs in the loss.