Men’s volleyball falls short of back-to-back Skyline titles in five-set loss at St. Joe’s-LI

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Patchogue, NY – In the winningest season in 16 years, the University of New Jersey City men’s volleyball team played in its second straight game for the Skyline Conference title on Saturday, April 9. The Gothic Knights, seeded second in the tournament, traveled to Long Island to take on St Joseph’s College – also for the second consecutive season – and the two programs battled again for a five-set thriller before a winner was crown. Leading two sets to zero, NJCU came back from winning the third and fourth sets with extra points to force a decisive fifth set. Unfortunately, back-to-back championships weren’t supposed to happen and the Golden Eagles won the conference crown and automatic bid for the 2022 NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

For Jersey City (22-9), three separate players had double-doubles on the day, led once again by the senior outside hitter Jonathan Andrews (North Bergen, NJ/North Bergen), who notched a game-best 25 wins to go with career-best 15 recoveries. Joining him was junior tri-captain opposite James Bajor (Bayonne, NJ/Bayonne)who had tied for 11 kills and 15 digs, as well as senior Leo Ferrari (Kearny, NJ/Kearny), who split the time between outside hitter and setter to finish with 29 assists, 11 digs and five kills. Ferrari and the Tri-Captain Junior Intermediate Blockers Brandon DaSilva (Kearny, NJ/Kearny) and rookie Nate Aguilar (Kearny, NJ/Kearny) combined for 17 total blocks – Ferrari tied their career high with a game-best tying seven, while DaSilva and Aguilar (career) each had five. Senior setter Aaron Mantille (Kearny, NJ/Kearny) collected 20 assists, while his classmate and Libero Daniel Esteva (Union, NJ/Union) nicked 10 digs.

As mentioned, NJCU fell behind St. Joe’s (25-3) after the first two sets, but battled for the event at 2-2 with some set wins themselves. The Gothic Knights trailed early in the third, 7-3, before going on a 9-2 run to take a 12-9 lead. DaSilva had two kills and an ace, while the outside hitting junior captain third Hanel Collado (North Bergen, NJ/North Bergen) also picked up a few wins during that streak. The teams traded points until the NJCU led 23-18 and at that point the Golden Eagles went on a 6-1 run to tie at 23-23. However, two kills from DaSilva and an ace from Collado gave Jersey City the win.

The majority of the fourth set saw the green and gold in control and at one point they held a seven-point, 20-13 lead and appeared to be fast on their way to a fifth set. However, St. Joe’s did their best to end the encounter in four sets and eventually built momentum in a 12-4 run to take a one-point lead, 25-24. Once again, however, the Gothic Knights were successful thanks to a block from DaSilva and Ferrari, as well as a decisive blow from Andrews to force the fifth set.

The Golden Eagles took an early lead in the final set, but NJCU was able to cut it to two points at 10-8 with a chance to fight back and claim the title. However, St. Joe’s won five of the last eight points to win its third Skyline crown in the last four Conference Championship tournaments.

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Despite the loss, this Gothic Knight team still has a chance to stand out with the third most wins in program history. Jersey City is eligible and will likely participate in the 2022 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Men’s Division III Volleyball Championship for the first time since 2013. The eight-team championship quarterfinal games are scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 13. , followed by the semi-final and final rounds on Saturday, April 16. The ECAC will make its selections on Monday, April 11, following the NCAA tournament selections.

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