The Wells College men's volleyball team extended its historic season with a victory Friday, April 19 over Southern Virginia University. The first appearance in the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Tournament resulted in the first NCAA victory for the Express. Set scores were 25-21, 25-23, 25-23 in the match played at Canavan Arena at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Wells advances to the quarterfinal round where the Express will take on the host Stevens Ducks on Saturday, April 20 at 6 p.m. Wells is 28-8 on the season and Southern Virginia finished its year with a 23-4. Like Wells, Southern Virginia was making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Express hit efficiently all match long with 42 kills and 12 errors for a .316 hitting percentage. Southern Virginia hit .157 with 33 kills and 19 errors. Wells served three aces with 15 service errors while SVU had five aces and eight service errors. Both teams totaled 33 digs.
Caden O'Loughlin had 12 kills, hit .235 in the match, had seven digs, and served two aces. Robert Patzer had 11 kills with a .391 hitting percentage. Joe Zimmerman was a defensive standout with a team-leading nine digs. He added seven kills. Josh Undari had 33 assists, three kills and seven digs. Ryan Tuner had four kills, an ace, and two block assists.
Southern Virginia took an 11-7 lead in the opening set but Wells rallied after calling a timeout. Seven-straight points for the Express on a service error, three Wells kills, two attack errors from SVU, and a bad pass but Wells ahead 14-11. The Express held the lead the rest of the way. Southern Virginia pulled within one point eight times, but Wells answered to win the ensuing point each time. The Express closed out the set with four of the last five points. Wells hit .343 in the set with 15 kills and three errors.
Wells continued its momentum early in the second set and raced out to a 9-3 lead. Southern Virginia reduced its deficit throughout the set and managed to get within two points five times. The Express led 23-19 when the Knights answered with four points in a row to tie it. Wells got a side out on a kill from Caden O'Loughlin, and Robert Patzer served out set point which was won on a hitting error by Southern Virginia to give Wells a two sets to one lead.
In the third set, Southern Virginia pulled ahead 18-15 when Wells called timeout and the Express took back-to-back points. Joe Zimmerman had two diving digs at the end line to keep the point alive and O'Loughlin finished it with a kill to bring the Express within 18-17. Southern Virginia held on to the lead for a short while, aided by two Express service errors, before Wells tied it 21-21 and then 22-22 on a block by Ryan Turner and Robert Patzer. Zimmerman served an ace to put Wells ahead 23-22. SVU tied it 23-23, but then had a hitting error to give match point to the Express. Ryan Turner served and Southern Virginia had a swing at the net but Justin Williams rose up and had the solo block to clinch the match for the Express.
- The 2019 men's volleyball team is the first Wells Express team in any sport to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. The 2010-11 men's basketball team and 2013-14 women's basketball team earned qualification to the NCAAs as NEAC champions but were defeated in the first round of the national tournament.
- Caden O'Loughlin had 12 kills and increased his season total to 492, which is the single-season record in kills for Wells men's volleyball. He could be the first player in program history to record 500 kills in a season.
- It was the second consecutive victory this season for Wells over a nationally-ranked opponent and the third such win in program history. Saturday's opponent, Stevens, is ranked third in the AVCA poll. It will be the first match between Wells and Stevens in the series history.
- Southern Virginia is ranked fifth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Coaches Poll, and the Knights lost in straight sets only once during the 2019 season prior to Friday's match, a 25-21, 25-20, 25-19 setback on April 5 at Stevens.
- It is the second year in a row that the champions of the North Eastern Athletic Conference won a first-round NCAA Tournament match. In 2018, Lancaster Bible College defeated Rivier in five sets. The NEAC champion was granted automatic qualification into the NCAA Tournament beginning with Penn State Altoona in 2017.