The Royals showed their season-long growth in Saturday's finale against Rutgers-Newark, but just missed upsetting Rutgers-Newark in a 3-2 CVC loss.
EMU ends the rebuilding year at 4-7 in the Continental Volleyball Conference, while the Scarlet Raiders take their 7-4 CVC mark into the six-team CVC Tournament. The Royals hold an overall record of 4-19, with 10 of those losses coming to nationally ranked teams.
Set one was tight until the Scarlet Raiders used a 6-1 run to gain an 18-14 edge. That turned momentum into a 25-17 decision for the visitors.
The Royals made a quick start in the second, scoring the first three points, and never looked back. Hunter Taylor (Ashland, Va./Patrick Henry) had a pair of aces during a key 5-0 run, building some space to an 18-11 edge. Taylor then finished a 25-19 score with his fifth kill of the set.
Led by good serving from Sean Wright (Glen Allen, Va./Deep Run) and big blocking at the net, EMU jumped to a 6-0 lead in the third. R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial) had a hand in all three of the men's blocks during the streak. Rutgers-Newark got no closer than two points as the men took another 25-19 win. Travis Abele (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee-Davis) and Jacob Durren (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) combined for the sixth block of the set to earn the final point.
The visitors responded quickly in the fourth, charging to a 7-2 edge. EMU got within 14-12 before Rutgers-Newark finished another 25-17 score.
The fifth set had some big swings early. After the Royals ignited the home crowd with an opening kill from Abele, Scarlet Raiders got back-to-back kills out of the middle to jump in front. But Abele had two more kills during a 4-0 EMU run, opening up a 5-2 margin. Eastern Mennonite kept the small lead until a 3-0 run finally got Rutgers-Newark in front, 9-8. The Royals earned ties at 9-9 and 10-10 before the Scarlet Raiders ended the match on a 5-1 run, winning 15-11.
EMU out-hit their visitors, .203 to .165, but were hurt by timely errors and serving, where Rutgers-Newark held a 9-4 edge in aces.
The seniors led the way in their final match.
Taylor tied his career high with 13 kills and his season high with three aces. He added six digs and three blocks. Taylor had double digit kills in three of his final five matches.
Libero Austin Tomlin (Greenville, Va./Riverheads) picked up nine digs and successfully handled 32 serve receptions, tops for either team.
Abele fittingly stuffed the stat sheet, coming in with 10 kills, 17 assists, three blocks, and a match high 13 digs. The dig total was one shy of his career high. Abele closes his career in the EMU Top 10 lists for career kills, assists, digs, blocks and service aces in the modern rally-scoring era.
Ocampo had a huge effort at the net in his final match, getting in on eight of EMU's ten blocks. The eight blocks tied his season high. Ocampo became just the fifth EMU men's volleyball player to cross 300 career blocks, doing so on Saturday to finish at 302.
Wright added nine kills in the match while Durren had seven kills on just 12 attacks.
Elan Dorkhman led Rutgers-Newark with 11 kills and four blocks. David Mrowko had nine kills, including four in the fifth set.