EMU's volleyball men wrapped up their home schedule with a pair of wins on Saturday, concluding with a thrilling come-from-behind five-setter over Messiah College.
The Royals are now 18-8 overall and 8-2 in the Continental Volleyball Conference as they prepare to wrap up the regular season with six road matches.
That stretch starts next weekend with Friday's big match at No. 5 Marymount University. The rivals are atop the CVC West standings, each with only two losses. Marymount (6-2 CVC) beat EMU 3-1 when the two met in Harrisonburg on Feb. 17. Friday's rematch in Arlington, Va., starts at 7:00pm.
The Royals head to Newark, N.J., the following day for a tri-match with CVC opponent Rutgers-Newark and Mount Saint Vincent.
EMU 3, Thiel 0
The Royals started the day with an important CVC sweep, although the visiting Tomcats made some noise early. EMU scored the first four points, but Thiel dug out of a six-point hole to tie the score at 13-13. Eastern Mennonite finished strong, however, ending on an 8-3 tear to win 25-19.
The Royals took the momentum from there, using an 8-0 run early in the second to run away, 25-10. The big runs continued in the third, as the men closed out a 25-16 win.
Eastern Mennonite simply hit their way past the Tomcats, landing a .324 kill percentage. In turn, they flustered Thiel to a -.151 mark.
Tim Callahan (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) was a driving force, landing 14 kills with a .550 percentage. Dan Lutz (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) did his thing out of the middle, getting 11 kills on 15 swings with a .667 percentage. R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial) added seven kills and a team best four blocks. Christian Taylor (Richmond, Va./Deep Run) racked up 36 set assists.
Jacob DeRue topped Thiel with six kills. Jacob Burkley made seven blocks.
EMU 3, Messiah 2
After a break for the Thiel and Messiah match, followed by EMU's Senior Recognition ceremonies, the huge home crowd got quite the treat in the day's finale.
The Royals had a quick start in set one, jumping ahead 10-3, only to see Messiah come flying back to get within one at 13-12. EMU still led 17-14 before the Falcons got on a roll, rattling off an 11-4 run to steal set one, 25-21.
MC carried the momentum into the second, starting on a 7-1 streak. The Royals had a pair of 3-0 runs, but could get no closer than 23-21 before Messiah scored two straight to win again, 25-21.
The Falcons looked in charge again in set three, building a quick 4-2 lead. But Callahan's serving changed the dynamics of the match. Messiah got out of system and Callahan capped a 6-0 run with his team's first service ace of the night. The men methodically built the lead bigger and bigger, leading by as many as 10 before settling on a 25-16 win.
The Royals scored the first two points in the fourth set and never trailed, hitting .464 as a team to even things up with a 25-18 win.
A big block from Lutz and Callahan gave EMU the first point of the fifth set, but Messiah answered with three in a row to cast a little shadow on the Royals' momentum. The Royals responded quickly, rattling off their own 3-0 run to get a one-point edge. EMU nudged the lead to two points until Messiah tied it up at 9-9.
The Royals broke off a 10-10 tie with two straight, including a key kill from Travis Abele (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee-Davis) to make it 12-10. The men were clinging to a 13-12 edge when the Falcons sent a deflating service error into the net. Callahan fired the clinching kill, with the Falcons showing their character by notifying the officials of a touch to deflect Callahan's shot out of bounds, leaving EMU with the 15-12 win.
The Royals again out-hit their opponent, .262 to .190. They also racked up a season high 14.0 blocks.
The outside hitters led the attack, with Ragland putting down 18 kills. Callahan landed 16 and Abele added 10. Taylor had 46 assists.
Lutz was dominant at the net getting his hands on a season best nine blocks. Taylor got in on five, while Ocampo and Abele each had four.
Buller again hit double figures with 13 digs and Ragland had 10.
The Falcons pushed most of their offense through two players. Logan Hunsberger racked up 24 kills with eight digs. Travis Hoover had 22 kills with a .400 kill percentage.
The Royals also honored their six seniors before the Messiah match: Colton Frey, Micah Buller, William Ragland, Dan Lutz, Tim Callahan and Ben Durren. The group has been vital to two of the best seasons in program history, including last year's run to the CVC Championship match. The 2017 team tied the program record for wins with a 22-11 record, and this year's squad already has the fourth-most wins at 18.
Individually, Ragland recently broke the EMU record for career aces, currently at 112, and Callahan is 13 kills shy of the record for career kills in the modern rally-scoring era. They have each been named to the CVC All-Academic Team, and currently have a combined record of 66-41 (.619) in their four years.