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Nazareth Athletics | April 24, 2015

Nazareth rallies back to defeat UC Santa Cruz in five sets

2015 DIII Men's Volleyball Championship: Quarterfinal Recap

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Outside hitter Tim Zyburt recorded a career-high 22 kills Friday for Nazareth as the Golden Flyers rallied to defeat UC Santa Cruz in a five-set men's volleyball quarterfinal match of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Stevens Institute of Technology. Scores were 21-25, 25-16, 16-25, 26-24, 15-12.

Five of Zyburt's kills came in the decisive fifth set as the Golden Flyers improved to 28-6 overall and earned a semifinal match with second-seeded Springfield (24-6) Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Top-seeded Stevens plays fourth-seeded New Paltz in the other semifinal match at 4 p.m. UC Santa Cruz finishes the season 24-6 overall. Friday's match was the third of the season between the two teams. Nazareth won a three-setter in February and Santa Cruz came back to win a four-set match in April.

Zyburt's 22 kills came with just three hitting errors in 37 attempts for a .514 hitting percentage. He also added seven digs. Junior Chris Mahan added nine kills and junior outside hitter Josh Hieb had six, including the match-clinching spike in the fifth set. Freshman setter Jake Kemp combined 43 assists with 13 digs. Junior libero John McCarty also had 10 digs.

"We felt like we had it the whole time," said Zyburt, who stands just four kills shy of 1,000 for his career. "We have great mental focus and we know that everyone on our team is capable of making big plays."

After falling behind two sets to one, Nazareth rallied to take a see-saw fourth set as Zyburt contributed five more kills. The set was tied at 24 apiece, then Nazareth secured the final two points on a pair of hitting errors by Santa Cruz's Lake Merchen. In the fifth set, four kills by Zyburt and one each for Mahan, Luke Lawatsch and Grant Levermore enabled Nazareth to secure a 10-6 lead. Hieb had a kill for the 13th point, then Zyburt had one for the 14th and Hieb connected again on match point. Kemp had assists on all three points.

The Banana Slugs hit .267 (14-7-29) versus .167 (12-7-30) for Nazareth to take the first set. Jake Howard and Lake Merchen each had four kills for Santa Cruz. Zyburt had six kills for Nazareth and Mahan had three. Nazareth was within 22-20 late in the set, but Merchen had a kill and a block surrounded by a Nazareth service error to close out the set.

Nazareth came back strong in the second set with a .524 hitting percentage (13-2-21) with six different players recording two kills. The Banana Slugs, meanwhile, had six hitting errors and failed to record a block.

The Banana Slugs went up 9-2 in the third set and stretched that lead to 18-10 and the Golden Flyers couldn't recover. Merchen and Jorge Reyes each had four kills and Jake Howard added two aces. Zyburt had four more kills for Nazareth and Kemp had six digs.

UC Santa Cruz had four players with double-digit kill totals, led by Jake Landel with 15. Brandon Torado had 13, Merchen 12 and Reyes 11. Setter Blake Chadwick totaled 55 assists.