Springfield, Mass. -- February 4, 2011 -- California Baptist University and University of the Pacific advanced to the championship game of the 24th Annual Volleyball Hall of Fame/Morgan Classic with a pair of 3-0 victory this evening at Springfield College's Blake Arena. Cal Baptist swept Grand Canyon, 25-16, 25-16, 25-22, before Pacific battled past host Springfield College, 25-21, 25-23, 25-17.
The Volleyball Hall of Fame/Morgan Classic honors William G. Morgan, who invented the game of volleyball in 1895. Morgan graduated from Springfield College in 1894.
With the win, Cal Baptist lifts its record to 9-3, and Pacific's ledger improves to 5-5. Grand Canyon falls to 5-9, while the Pride drop to 2-5.
The Lancers of Cal Baptist will move on to play the winner of the Pacific match Saturday at 8 pm (EST). The Antelopes of Grand Canyon will play the loser of that Springfield match in the consolation game at 6 pm (EST).
Cal Baptist, ranked #1 in the NAIA, owns several huge victories already this season, including a win over UC-Irvine, then-ranked #2 nationally in the AVCA Division I poll. The Lancers also claim wins over Princeton (3-0) and Harvard (3-0). Cal Baptist has already beaten Springfield, the #1-ranked team in the AVCA Division III poll, twice, both by 3-0 scores in Riverside. Cal Baptist's losses were to BYU (3-2), UC-Irvine (3-1), and UC-San Diego (3-1).
Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, Ariz., meanwhile, is coached by Jeremy Price, former head coach at Juniata College of Huntingdon, Pa. Juniata is considered a strong rival of Springfield College.
In tonight's first match, Cal Baptist took a 5-4 lead in the first set, and was never headed in that set, winning 25-16. In set #2, the Lancers were leading 10-8, but then scored five of the next six points to take a 15-9 advantage. Again, CBU won by a 25-16 score. In the third set, the score was tied at 22-all. but Cal Baptist wound up taking the final three points to capture the match at 25-22.
The Lancers were led tonight by the tremendous one-two punch of 6-6 junior outside hitter Levi Cabral (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and 6-7 freshman opposite Sebastien Steigmeier (Geneva, Switzerland). Cabral finished with 17 kills with only two errors in 26 swings for a .577 hitting percentage. Steigmeyer had 15 kills with only four errors in 21 swings for a .524 hitting percentage.
Daniel Freitas, a 6-5 sophomore outside hitter from Lawndale, Calif., led his CBU squad with eight digs. Blair Penner, a 6-3 setter from Fresno, Calif., led the Lancer attack with 39 set assists.
For Grand Canyon, 6-4 freshman outside hitter Ben Ponnet (Merchtem, Belgium) led with 10 kills. He was followed by 6-5 junior opposite Taylor Galliano (Norco, Calif.) with seven kills. Keith Smith, a 6-4 freshman setter from Whittier, Calif., had 25 set assists.
As a team, Cal Baptist hit a gaudy .521, while Grand Canyon hit .140.
In the second match, Florian Gornik paced the Tigers with 14 kills at a .478 kill to go along with a team-best six blocks. Teammate Taylor Hughes added 11 kills, while Patrick Tunnell directed the visiting offense with 34 assists and nine digs. Javier Caceres was credited with a match-high 10 digs. For the match, Pacific hit .225 and controlled the net with 27 block assists.
Springfield's Alberto Bravo posted 10 kills, six digs, and four blocks, while Greg Falcone had a very strong match with five kills and a match-high seven blocks. Mike Becker registered 21 assists and three service aces and Tommy Crow came off the bench to tally six digs. Cal Palumbo had five kills on eight errorless swings while also adding four blocks. Springfield was limited to just a .070 hitting percentage for the contest.
In the first two sets, there were a combined 18 tie scores and 10 lead changes.
After a kill by Mike Pelletier gave Springfield a 14-13 lead in the first, the visiting Tigers poured on a 7-1 run to take a five-point lead at 20-15. A Becker ace brought Springfield within one at 21-20, however, Pacific scored four of the game's final five points to take the first set. Hughes had five of his 11 kills in the frame.
Springfield controlled much of the second set and found itself up three, 21-18, after a solo block by Palumbo. Pacific was able to capitalize on a pair of Springfield errors coupled with two Hughes' kills to even the set at 22. With the score tied, head coach Charlie Sullivan called a pair of timeouts which were sandwiched between a Hughes kill as the hosts found themselves trailing 23-22. A kill by Palumbo out of the timeout brought the score to 23-all, only to have Gornik connect on a kill and an ace for the win.
Pacific carried its momentum into the third as it raced out to a 10-3 lead and never looked back. The Pride struggled to find its offense as it hit a paltry .000 for the set, compared to a blistering .423 by the Tigers. Gornik had six kills on eight errorless swings to lead the way.