Matched up with No. 8 Marymount in a key CVC contest Friday night in Arlington, Va., EMU's volleyball men were simply not on top of their offensive game. In fact, both teams struggled to get their attack in sync, but Marymount gritted out a tight 3-0 decision.
Eastern Mennonite falls to 8-3 in the Continental Volleyball Conference, slipping behind the 7-2 Saints in the standings. MU also holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Royals after sweeping the season series.
EMU has just two conference dates left, playing the top two teams from the CVC East. The Royals head to Rutgers-Newark on Saturday for an afternoon tri-match against the Scarlet Raiders (5-2 CVC) and Mount Saint Vincent. They play at Kean (6-1 CVC) on April 7. The Cougars are ranked No. 4 in the most recent AVCA national poll.
Only the top three teams from each of the two divisions make the CVC Tournament, leaving a stressful mess in the CVC West. Although numerous scenarios exist, Marymount stands in first place in the West, with Southern Virginia (6-3 CVC) and Juniata (8-4 CVC) tangled with Eastern Mennonite for the final two spots.
A win against either Rutgers-Newark or Kean would give the Royals a big boost in their effort to qualify for a second straight CVC Tournament, which starts April 10.
Against Marymount, EMU did a fantastic job shutting down the 2017 CVC Player of the Year, TJ Wiechecki. The Saints' 6-4 opposite, who entered averaging 4.17 kills per set, needed 33 swings to land 12 kills, and had 14 attack errors for a -.061 kill percentage. But the rest of the Saints picked up the slack, combining to hit .315.
The Royals, meanwhile, hit a season-low .062, despite just two blocks from Marymount.
The mistakes were rearing their head from the start, as EMU had three attack errors in falling into a 5-1 hole in set one. They settled down and eventually earned their first lead at 19-18, with a kill from Tim Callahan (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) later making it 22-20. But two more attack errors fueled a 4-0 run for Marymount, as the Saints flipped the tables to steal a 25-23 win in the opener.
Both teams hit negative as a team in the second, resulting in wild swings for both. The Royals led 4-1 before falling behind 12-6 and 16-9. A 5-0 run followed by a 4-0 run quickly erased that deficit to an 18-18 tie and the crowd looked for another exciting finish. The teams deuced to 19-19 and 20-20 ties before the Saints got hot and rattled off five in a row to win, 25-20.
Set three was short on runs and high on tension. Marymount led by as much as 16-11 before EMU stormed back to be down by only one at 18-17. Finally, a block from R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial) and Travis Abele (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee-Davis) locked up the score at 20-20. The teams traded 2-0 runs, but the Saints made one more 2-0 jab to get to match point at 24-22. Ocampo landed a kill to keep the men alive, but Wiechecki finished things off with a shot down the middle, ending the sweep at 25-23.
William Ragland (North Chesterfield, Va./Thomas Dale) led EMU with eight kills while Callahan added six.
Abele racked up five blocks. Callahan and Dan Lutz (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) each got in on three.
Micah Buller (Richmond, Va./Douglas Freeman) made a match high seven digs.
While Wiechecki labored to his 12 kills for MU, Eric Wiles and Sam Safley each landed nine.