Behind 23 kills from Zyburt, Levermore, Nazareth sweeps Rivier in semifinals
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Behind 23 combined kills from freshmen Tim Zyburt and Grant Levermore, Nazareth defeated Rivier in three sets on Saturday to advance to the NCAA championship match. The scores of the match were 26-24, 25-18, 25-20. The Golden Flyers will face defending national champion Springfield in the championship match.
With the victory, Nazareth improved to 36-1 overall, while the Raiders fell to 27-12. Springfield advanced to the title match after holding off Baruch in five sets 25-22, 25-18, 18-25, 22-25, 15-13.
In the first set, Nazareth took the early lead behind kills from Zyburt and sophomore Luke Lawatsch. Neither team managed to take more than a one-point lead until Rivier tallied four consecutive points to transform a 7-6 deficit into a 10-7 lead. The Raiders also had a three-point lead at 19-16. The Golden Flyers tied the match at 21 points apiece following a kill by sophomore Brody Cord.
Following a kill by Zyburt and a Rivier hitting error, Nazareth had set-point at 24-23. The Golden Flyers eventually won the match 26-24 following a kill by Levermore and an assisted block by Lawatsch and Levermore.
Similar to the first set, the teams traded points to open set two. Trailing 10-9, the Golden Flyers used a four-point spurt to take a 13-10 lead. Nazareth maintained its lead throughout the remainder of the set. A kill by Zyburt and Levermore started the run and two hitting errors by the Raiders provided the Golden Flyers with the three-point lead.
Nazareth scored the final four points of set two to pull away. A combined block by Lawatsch and Levermore provided the Golden Flyers with set point.
In the third set, Nazareth used a 12-5 scoring run to take an 18-11 lead. Four Rivier attack errors and kills by Zyburt, Lawatsch and seniors Alex Houghtalen and Robert Kraft gave Nazareth the advantage. The Raiders closed to within three points 19-16, but were not able to threaten the Golden Flyers' lead. At match point, Lawatsch converted his sixth kill of the evening to send Nazareth to Sunday's title game.
Defensively, the Golden Flyers forced the Raiders into nine hitting errors for a .152 attack percentage in the opening set. Nazareth held Rivier to only nine kills in the second and third sets while forcing the Raiders into 11 total hitting errors between the two sets. Rivier finished with attack percentages of .154 and .125 in the final two sets.
The Golden Flyers' attack converted at least 13 kills in each set. Nazareth had 14 kills in the first set, followed by 16 in the second set and 13 in the third set. The Golden Flyers recorded hitting percentages of .333, .367 and .259 in the respective sets.
Zyburt finished with a match-high 13 kills and Levermore tallied 10 kills to lead Nazareth. Lawatsch and Kraft each added six kills, while Cord and Houghtalen chipped in three kills apiece. Setter EJ Wells-Spicer converted two kills on two attempts while amassing a match-high 37 assists. Wells-Spicer needs only 10 assists to become Nazareth's all-time assist leader.
Zyburt finished with a team-high seven digs and Lawatsch had a match-high five total blocks to solidify the Golden Flyers' defense.
Aaron Almario had nine kills to lead Rivier. Steve Visentin recorded 27 assists and Matt Bynon totaled seven digs.