ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Eighth-seeded New York University (17-10) defeated four seed Elmira (24-10) in five sets on Saturday to advance to the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) finals. The championship tournament is being hosted by Nazareth.
The Violets defeated Elmira in Saturday's semifinal by scores of 25-23, 18-25, 36-38, 25-16, 15-11.
This win came on the heels of a first-round victory against top-ranked host Nazareth.
"We gave Nazareth everything we had so my only concern coming into the Elmira match was coming out flat," NYU head coach Jose Pina said. "Although we did get off to a slow start, I knew I could rely on my seniors Connor Mortland and Nick Capriccio to push the guys to reach their full potential."
NYU narrowly led the entire first set with zero lead changes and six tie scores. Eventually, it was a surprise kill by setter Mortland that gave the Violets the set 25-23.
"It was great to get that first set win, but we were not complacent," Pina said. "We knew that against a team as good as Elmira, there was little margin for error."
Elmira was in control throughout the majority of the second set,en route to a decisive 25-18 victory.
The third set provided high drama. NYU led most of the way, but Elmira continued to chip away at the deficit until the squads were knotted at 21. The match was so tight that 25 points would prove not to be enough to determine a victor. Instead, the teams exchanged points all the way to a 36-36 tie. Back-to-back NYU errors were the difference and gave the Soaring Eagles the 38-36 set victory.
"Many teams would have given up after that heart-breaking third-set loss, but not our guys," added Pina. "I certainly wasn't happy we let the set slip away, but I was so proud of the energy and tone in our huddle going into the fourth. We were itching to get back on the court. We knew we were winning this match."
NYU managed to shake off the tough third-set defeat and get back on track in the fourth. The Violets got out to a quick lead and never looked back on their way to a 25-16 win.
"The fourth set was a perfect microcosm for what our team has been about all year," Pina said. "We faced adversity in the third, just as we have many times this season, but we never gave up and continued to fight back as a team."
The fifth set was very competitive, but the Violets' defense and offensive firepower proved to be too much for Elmira to handle. After hitting more than .300 in the first three sets, NYU held Elmira to negative hitting percentages in the fourth and fifth.
"Mortland and Chase Klein really played excellent when we needed it most," Pina said. "The team stuck to the game plan and continued to trust each other. No matter what happens tomorrow, I am so incredibly proud of these young men."
Klein led all players with 21 kills to go along with seven digs. Mortland had an all-around great match with 49 assists, six kills, five blocks and four digs.