Royals Earn Key CVC Road Win Over No. 8 Southern Virginia

Travis Abele's back-to-back kills clinched the first set. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Travis Abele's back-to-back kills clinched the first set. (photo by Scott Eyre)

In an epic CVC road clash, Eastern Mennonite gritted out a five-set victory at Southern Virginia Wednesday night. The Royals trailed two-sets-to-one, before recovering from the loss of sizeable leads in both the fourth and fifth sets to score the upset win in the battle of nationally ranked teams.

No. 14 EMU improves to 15-5 overall and 7-2 in the CVC, clinching their second straight winning record in conference play. The men also handed No. 8 Southern Virginia (10-5/4-3 CVC) their first home loss in program history, as the second-year program had won 12 straight in Buena Vista.

It was Eastern Mennonite's third win this season over a team ranked in the top 10 of the AVCA national poll.

The Royals get a break from Continental Volleyball Conference play this weekend, starting with a match at Lancaster Bible College on Friday. Start time is at 6:00pm.

EMU then heads to Newton, Mass., on Saturday, playing MIT and host Lasell that afternoon. MIT has been receiving votes in the national poll.

Wednesday's affair at SVU featured wild momentum swings and white-knuckle tension.

Southern Virginia scored first and led 19-16 in the first set before the men rattled off a 7-2 run to jump in front, 23-21. SVU put in two straight, but Travis Abele (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee-Davis) landed back-to-back kills to give EMU the opener, 25-23.

The Knights again built an early lead in the second. This time, however, the home team did not let up and evening the score, 25-18.

Neither team had a run longer than two points in the third until EMU scored three straight for a 19-17 edge. They held the lead until Southern Virginia had a 4-0 streak to go ahead 24-22. The Royals tied it at 24-24, but a service error and block gave the home team the set, 26-24.

The Royals looked ready for a blowout win in the fourth, snowballing to a 19-10 lead. But the Knights somehow put together a huge 13-1 run, jumping in front 23-20. As surprising as SVU's run was, Eastern Mennonite made as big of a swing in their answer, scoring five straight to win, 25-23. Dan Lutz (Greencastle, Pa/Greencastle-Antrim) and William Ragland (North Chesterfield, Va./Thomas Dale) teamed for blocks on both of the final two points.

The men scored the first two in the fifth and never gave up the lead. SVU had the score tied at 2-2 and 5-5, but the Royals broke off that deadlock with a 6-1 run to go up 11-6. They set up match point at 14-9 before Southern Virginia stormed back to lock it up at 14-14. The teams traded points until Tim Callahan (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) tooled one of the block for an 18-17 lead, and R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial) and Christian Taylor (Richmond, Va./Deep Run) teamed up for the match-winning block, 19-17.

Eastern Mennonite struggled to get into an offensive rhythm all night, hitting just .095 as a team. Along with SVU's pesky defense, the Royals were more affected by the low ceilings in Knight Sports Arena than the home team was.

Southern Virginia, however, hamstrung themselves with 28 service errors.

Callahan managed a team best 15 kills to go with nine digs. Abele added 10 kills and eight digs. Taylor made 32 assists.

The Royals were much better at the service line than SVU, landing seven aces with only 15 errors. Callahan and Lutz each had three aces.

Defensively, Lutz led all players with five blocks while Ragland had four. Libero Micah Buller (Richmond, Va./Douglas Freeman) also had eight digs.

Nahuel Recabarren led the Knights with 22 kills while Paul Clark added 20 and 10 digs.