Springfield, Mass. -- February 13, 2009 -- UC-San Diego and George Mason each won their semifinal matches on Friday evening and advanced to the 2009 Volleyball Hall of Fame/Morgan Classic Championship game on Saturday evening.
Will Ehrman exploded for 18 kills, hitting .571 in the process, to lead his University of California-San Diego Tritons to a 3-1 victory over Saint Francis of Pennsylvania tonight in the first semifinal match. Game scores from a UC-San Diego point of view were 30-20, 33-35, 30-27, 30-18.
In the second semifinal, the Patriots of George Mason downed the host Springfield College Pride in three games to advance to the title game for the second-straight year. George Mason's Ben Nichols hammered out a match-best 16 kills, hitting .357, to pace his squad to victory. GMU won by the game scores of 30-28, 30-22, 30-24.
With the loss, the Pride even its record to 5-5, 1-4 in EIVA Tait play while the Patriots improve 5-1, 1-0 in league play.
AJ Nally led Springfield with a team-best 12 kills to go along with six digs and four blocks. Ryan Fredrickson added six kills, while Cal Palumbo tacked on five kills and three blocks. Eric Shoemaker dished out 30 assists and finished with a team-best five blocks. Ruben Fernandez notched eight digs in just two games of work.
For the Patriots, besides Nichols' 16 kills, Kyle Gramit added 13 kills and two blocks. Brandon McLaughlin added six kills, four digs, and five blocks, while Ryan Kwiatkowski directed the offense with 37 assists to go along with seven kills, hitting .875. Eric Lucas posted a match-best 12 digs in the victory for George Mason.
In the opening game, the Pride set the tone early as it raced out to an 11-4 lead, taking advantage of several George Mason errors. SC went on to lead by as much as seven, 16-9, after a Nally kill, but Mason stormed back into the game, tying it at 20-all after a Gramit kill. The teams would trade points until Andy Sipe tied the game at 28 after a kill out of the middle for head coach Charlie Sulilvan's squad. However, George Mason used a Kwiatkowski kill and a Pride attack error to take the opening frame, 30-28, and grab plenty of momentum for the match.
George Mason owned the second frame as it never trailed en route to the 30-22 victory. As a team, the Patriots posted a .400 hitting percentage and used four aces to power themselves to a two-game advantage.
Springfield seemed determined to get a game back in the third as it used a double block from Nally and Sipe to grab a 20-18 lead. After a Patriot error gave the hosts a three-point advantage, George Mason posted a 4-0 run to grab a 22-21 lead. A triple block from Sipe, Nally, and Shoemaker tied the game at 22-all, but the Patriots finished the game on a 8-2 run to complete the three-game sweep.
With the victory, UC-San Diego raises its record to 5-6, while Saint Francis of Loretto falls to 6-4. This represents the second time that the Tritons have been a part of this Classic, considered the finest in-season men's volleyball tournament in the East. UC-San Diego was here two years ago (2007). It is the first time the Red Flashes of Saint Francis have come to the tournament.
Although Ehrman, a redshirt sophomore outside hitter from Honolulu, Hawaii, was a dominant performer for the Tritons, he was by no means their whole show. Ehrman had only two errors in his 28 total attempts. Three others, however, also had kills ranging from 17 to 13. Junior opposite Frank Fritsch (Los Gatos, Calif.) finished with 17 kills, hitting .433. Junior outside hitter Jason Spangler (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) was credited with 15 kills, hitting .333. And redshirt sophomore middle blocker Adrian Guthals (Westlake Village, Calif.) ended with 13 kills, hitting .600 on the evening. Sophomore setter Phil Bannan (Newport Beach, Calif.) had 62 set assists. Senior libero Eric Leserman (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) led both teams with 11 digs.
For Saint Francis, junior outside hitter Jordan Varee (Conneautville, Pa.) led his squad with 18 kills. He hit .353 for the contest. Junior outside hitter Nick Rivett (Pittsburgh, Pa.) was next with 12 kills. He also topped his team with 6 digs. Junior middle hitter Pete Freyer (Orchard Park, N.Y.) was not far behind that pace with 9 kills, making only one error in 13 attempts. He hit .538. Also hitting very well was junior middle hitter Patrick MacManamon (Huntingdon, Pa.) at .500 (6 kills, 1 error, 10 swings).
The Tritons were pretty much in control of this match, serving well with 11 aces, compared to the Red Flashes with 2. UC-San Diego hit .463 as a team, including .533 in game one, and .500 in game four. The Red Flashes, meanwhile, hit a respectable .291 overall.