Courtesy of Dominican University
RIVER FOREST, Ill. -- The Dominican University men's volleyball team, playing in the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship semifinals, came up just short, falling to the Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks in five sets (30-32, 25-22, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9).
"That was everything we could have asked for in a match," claimed Dan Pawlikowski, the Stars' first-year head coach, following the match. "They came out and gave us everything and we gave them everything we had too and it was just a back-and-forth phenomenal match. That's what you want to see in a national semifinal. Hats off to Stevens. They are a great team—the best team we've seen all year—and we were right there. Nothing to hang our heads about."
The Stars scrapped their way to a set-one win, staving off set-point eight times before using a three-point spurt sparked by a Jake Sidner kill and capped by back-to-back Dominican blocks, one by Nick Timreck and Jack McGuire followed by a Timreck solo block to wrap up the set for the Stars.
Ethan Klosak knocked down nine kills in the opening set to pace the Stars while Gabe Shankweiler led the Ducks with seven first-set kills.
Back-to-back attack errors by the Ducks late in the second set put Dominican ahead 21-19 as the Stars appeared poised to take a 2-0 lead in the match but Stevens scored six of the final seven points of the second stanza to even the match at a set apiece.
Dominican raced out a 14-6 lead in the third set when Adam Eboli and Luke Spicer combined for a block of Stevens' Ian Bennett. Stevens scratched and clawed, eventually pulling within a point, 22-21 when Dylan DeBoer and Thomas Burrell blocked Spicer. After a Dominican sideout, the Ducks scored three straight, capped by another Burrell block, to pull in front 24-23 before Spicer steadied the Stars with his sixth kill of the third set. Dominican then put the set away when Sidner knocked down a kill before Eboli served an ace for the 26-24 win for the Stars.
In the fourth set, Dominican opened a 17-15 lead before a pair of Ducks' blocks evened the score at 17-17. Eboli earned a Dominican sideout with a kill before Stevens went on a four-point run to pull in front 21-18. Eboli again earned the Stars a sideout with a kill but Dominican could never stop chasing the scoreboard as Stevens 16-for-24 on sideouts in the set.
With a trip to the national championship on the line, the Stars scored the first two points of the deciding fifth set before a four-point Stevens' run changed the momentum. Dominican battled back to even the score at 5-5 thanks to a pair of Ducks' errors before a 3-0 Stevens' run put the Ducks ahead for good at 9-6.
The Stars hit .187 in the losing effort with Spicer collecting a match-high 22 kills on 54 swings while committing just eight errors. Klosak added 18, managing just one kill in the fourth and fifth sets. McGuire, assisted on 56 of the Stars' 60 kills on the evening.
For the Ducks, DeBoer finished with a team-high 19 kills to lead four hitters in double-digit kills. Gabe Shankeweiler added 17 kills while Cooper Diamond and Burrell managed 11 kills apiece.
For Dominican, the season comes to a close in the national semifinals for the first time in program history. The Stars went 26-8 on the season, winning the inaugural Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) Tournament Championship to earn the right to represent the conference in the national tournament.