Stars Claim Inaugural NACC Tournament Title

Dominican University celebrates the inaugural NACC men's volleyball tournament title.
Dominican University celebrates the inaugural NACC men's volleyball tournament title.

The eighth-ranked Dominican University men's volleyball team (24-7) claimed the inaugural Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) Men's Volleyball Tournament Championship on Saturday night at the Igini Sports Forum, topping the ninth-ranked Benedictine University Eagles in five sets (25-22, 17-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-6) to claim the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship.

"Amazing match played by both sides," emphasized Dominican University first-year head coach Dan Pawlikowski. "Kudos to a very strong and well coached Benedictine team. That was a battle from the first point to the last and neither side backed down one inch."

"I'm very proud of the way we were able to weather the emotional swings. The energy of the crowd was amazing and our guys were very excited to clinch the conference championship on our home court. We fought and won as a team tonight and I couldn't be happier for our seniors to keep their season going."

The Stars started slow, committing a pair of attack errors as the Eagles opened a 4-0 lead in the first set. Benedictine carried the lead all the way to 12-8 before Dominican's offense heated up. The Stars scored eight of the next ten points, including a block by Adam Eboli and Jack McGuire that opened a 16-14 lead for the Stars.

Benedictine managed to even the first set at 18-18 before Dominican pulled away with a four-point spurt, capped by a kill by Jake Sidner. Benedictine managed a couple of sideouts and staved off set point twice before a serving error gave the opening set to Dominican, 25-22.

The Stars hit .321 in the opening game while forcing seven attack errors to hold the Eagles to a .167 attack percentage. Sidner and fellow sophomore Ethan Klosak knocked down four kills apiece for the Stars in the first set while Benedictine's Elijah Medlock knocked down four of his own to lead the Stars.

Benedictine answered in the second set, never trailing en route to a 25-17 set two win. After the teams traded sideouts to open the set, Benedictine went 12-for-17 on sideouts in the set while Dominican managed sideout on 12 of 25 attempts. Medlock continued to swing a heavy hand for the Eagles, collecting another four kills in the second set, en route to a career-high 24 kills. For Dominican, Luke Spicer, named the NACC Player of the Year earlier in the week, got going, knocking down five of his team-high 16 kills in the second frame.

The third set saw six ties and three lead changes as the AVCA Top ten foes traded punches. After a Nick Malak kill gave the Eagles a 3-2 advantage, Dominican scored four straight to force a Benedictine timeout with the Stars opening a 6-3 lead. Later in the set, with Dominican leading 17-14, Benedictine scored four of the next five points to even the set at 18-18. The teams traded sideouts to 20-20 before a 4-1 Stars' run, including a pair of kills by Klosak, set up set point for the Stars. Benedictine managed to hold on for two more points before Klosak put the set to rest with his fifth kill of the set.

The fourth set saw a number of runs from both sides, including an early 4-0 swing in favor of the visitors that opened an early 5-1 lead for the Eagles. Dominican strung together its own four-point run, eventually evening the set back up at 12-12 to force an Eagle timeout. Benedictine used another four-point spurt after the timeout to open back up a 16-12 lead but Dominican refused to go quietly. Back-to-back kills by Dominican's Eboli eventually knotted the set back up at 20-20. The teams traded sideouts up to 24-24 before back-to-back errors for the Stars gave the Eagles the fourth set, evening the match at 2-2.

Benedictine scored two of the first three points in the fifth set before Dominican used a 4-0 swing that saw a trio of Benedictine errors before an ace by Spicer allowed Dominican to open a 5-2 lead. Benedictine managed a couple of sideouts but never could get back into the deciding set, as Eboli really helped Dominican pull away, serving four straight points, including a pair of aces, as the Stars opened a 12-4 lead en route to the 15-6 win in the deciding fifth set.

With rookie setter Jack McGuire running the offense to a .266 hitting percentage, Dominican put three hitters in double-figures, led by Spicer's 16 kills. Klosak and Sidner added 13 apiece while Timreck added nine and Eboli finished with eight. McGuire collected 55 assists on 62 Dominican kills.

Defensively, the Stars collected ten total blocks, including four in the fifth set, with Eboli posting five block assists and Timreck, McGuire and Sidner all adding three block assists. In the back row, the DeMarco brothers led the charge, with David DeMarco managing a team-high nine digs and Bregin DeMarco adding seven.

For the Eagles, Medlock paced the offense with 24 kills while Adriel Rivas and Malak added eight apiece.

Dominican will make its second appearance in the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship tournament, finding out the details of their invitation to the ball on Monday morning on the NCAA selection show at 9:00 a.m. Links to the selection show can be found on the Stars' men's volleyball schedule page on DUstars.com