Connor Hinman was tournament MVP.
Keuka Athletics

LANCASTER, Pa. -- It takes some programs years to make it into the conference championship game, but Keuka not only qualified for the North Eastern Athletic Conference’s (NEAC) postseason championship, the Storm claimed the NEAC title in the program’s first year of existence.

Freshman Connor Hinman earned Tournament MVP honors after recording a pair of double-doubles as the Storm (12-17) defeated SUNYIT in four sets in the semifinals, then rallied past top-seeded Lancaster Bible in four sets to claim the title on Saturday. Hinman, a first-team All-NEAC selection as an outside hitter, compiled 34 digs, 19 kills, eight blocks and two service aces.

Junior Devin Lesch totaled 13 blocks, 11 kills and six digs, freshman Tom Campbell added 18 blocks, 12 kills and four aces and sophomore Manny Fernandez compiled 19 digs, 17 kills and eight blocks for Keuka, which won seven of its last nine matches en route to the championship.

Keuka had to rally from one-set deficits in both the semifinal and championship match. The Green and Gold got by SUNYIT (10-18) by scores of 24-26, 25-22, 25-23 and 25-20, and defeated Lancaster Bible (16-16) by scores of 26-28, 25-14, 26-24 and 25-20.

The Storm’s blocking was solid in both matches. Keuka had 18 total team blocks (five solo and 26 assisted) against SUNYIT, then followed up with 22 total blocks (seven solo, 30 assisted) in the championship match.

Leading 25-24 in the fourth set against Lancaster, sophomore Krystian Lucey came up with a block to clinch the championship for Keuka.

“Our blocking was outrageous [Saturday], it definitely affected our opponents quite a bit,” said Ben Guiliano, Keuka’s first-year head coach who also led the Storm women to the NEAC championship before falling to Gallaudet in three sets.

“We  took them out of their rhythm and they started making a lot of hitting mistakes and changing what they were trying to do. They took more readable shots and allowed us to get good digs and transition points. Our blocking was a major part of what we did. We played really good defense but our digging was aided by the strong blocking.”

Freshman Connor Hinman earned NEAC Tournament MVP honors after a pair of double-doubles to lead the Storm to the NEAC championship.

Hinman posted 14 digs with 11 kills, five blocks and one ace, while Lesch had six kills, nine blocks and three digs against SUNYIT. Lesch hit .235 for the match with only two errors in 17 attempts, while Campbell had six kills, five blocks, two assists, two aces and two digs and Fernandez added 11 digs, five kills and four blocks.

Sophomore Ryan Kelly added 31 assists, 11 digs and two blocks while freshman Josh Makin had 11 digs, six kills and six blocks in the semifinal.

Keuka led the first set 21-18, but SUNYIT closed out the set on an 8-3 run to take a 1-0 lead.

In the second, the Green and Gold trailed 19-15, but went on a 7-3 run and evened the match. Trailing 23-22 in the third, the Storm won the final three points to take a 2-1 lead.

Keuka, which led 20-18 in the fourth set, won five of the last seven points to advance into the title game.

Facing Lancaster, Fernandez had 12 kills and only one error in 33 attempts (.333 attack percentage) as the Storm hit .209 as a team, including .391 in the second set and .345 in the fourth set.

Fernandez added eight digs and four blocks, Hinman recorded 20 digs (his third 20-plus dig match of the year), 18 kills and three blocks and Campbell had 13 total blocks, six kills and two aces for the Storm.

Makin added 11 blocks, four kills and four digs, Kelly chipped in with 41 assists and 12 digs and Lesch added five kills, four blocks and three digs.

Hinman sported a .316 hitting percentage after only six errors in 38 attempts while freshman Christopher Mooring, who served as Keuka’s libero for the playoff matches, had 11 digs in the title game.

“Christopher [Mooring] played fantastic for us, his defense was as big a reason why we won as anything,” Guiliano said. “Mooring was excellent with his serve-receive and his defense and he really gave us a big lift. This was a fun victory and we’re definitely excited about winning the championship. We feel like we accomplished something special.”