SALEM, VA. — The Southern Virginia University men's volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Semifinals Thursday night, sweeping Wentworth 25-16, 25-20, 25-19.
With the win, the Knights earned the first NCAA Tournament victory in Southern Virginia University athletics history.
"I am very proud of our guys for their fight, and we are excited about the win tonight," said head coach Tom Peterson. "This is our first tournament victory, and we feel honored to represent Southern Virginia in the Semifinals tomorrow. The hard part is ahead of us because both teams we could play are very talented, but I believe in my guys to get the job done. I also want to thank the crowd who had our backs and for such a great turnout at the game."
Nahuel Recabarren led the offense with 11 kills and a .300 hitting average, while Sam Candland followed with nine kills and a .533 hitting average. Senior Kaipo Tagaloa quarterbacked the team, dishing out a team-high 29 assists, with McKay Walker adding two service aces.
Defensively, Tagaloa anchored the squad with a team-high seven digs, and Candland following closely with six. Walker made his presence felt at the net, tallying two blocks to round out the defense.
The Knights set the tempo early, jumping out to a 9-2 led by Recabarren and Walker's two kills. Both teams traded points for the remainder of the first before Southern Virginia closed out the set, capitalizing on a service error to set up Walker for the final kill.
Southern Virginia found themselves in their first deficit of the game, trailing Wentworth 6-9 at the beginning of the second. Again, each team exchanged points before Tanner Durkin tied the set at 12, and Walker served up an ace to take the first lead of the set 13-12. The Knights used a 9-2 run to extend their lead 22-15, but the Leopards answered with a 5-2 run of their own. With game point present, Tagaloa set up Recabarren, who earned the final kill of the set to go up 2-0 in the game.
In the final set and momentum in their favor, the Knights built a solid 9-4 lead, but Wentworth used a 6-3 run to close the game to two points 10-12. After a quick exchange of points, Southern Virginia began building upon their lead, jumping to a 20-15 advantage. After a final back-and-forth trade, the Knights found themselves with match points 24-19. Southern Virginia could not capitalize on the serve, but on the ensuing service reception, Tagaloa found an open Sam Candland who buried the final kill and sent the Knights the Semifinals.
Southern Virginia will face the winner of Lancaster Bible and Benedictine Friday, April 23. Game time is slated for 7 PM.