American League volleyball playoffs got underway on Monday night, pitting the Basilean Eagles against the Zeta Chi Tornadoes in a highly contested four-set series.
The first set went back and forth right from the opening serve. Zeta Chi’s defense kept them in the game while Basil brought a steady front row onslaught from senior Dan Sadowitz and freshman João do Nascimento.
The Eagles took a two-point lead at 14-12 before two consecutive net violations threatened to turn the momentum in Z’s favor. João do Nascimento scored on the next play, however, and Basil stretched its lead to five at 21-16.
Tornadoes’ junior Evan Brondyke and senior Patrick Beam stopped the bleeding with back-to-back points, but a service error halted the Tornadoes’ progress and put the ball back in the Eagles’ hands.
Basil failed to serve the ball in bounds with a 24-21 lead, but the Eagles received Z’s serve easily, and João do Nascimento hammered a cross-court spike home to take the first game 25-21.
The second game started with Basil riding its momentum to an early 2-0 lead, but Z’s freshman Kyle Turner had other plans as he recorded back-to-back blocks to get the Tornadoes on the scoreboard. Z kept pulling ahead, benefiting from another hit from Turner and a quick pass from Brondyke that snuck behind Basil’s back row.
Basil’s Matt Moore tried to get the Eagles rolling with a rocket into the far corner of Z’s court, but Brondyke countered with a powerful spike of his own and another smart pass into Basil’s backcourt.
Basil couldn’t find an answer for the net defense of Turner or the offensive combination of Brondyke, Beam, and senior setter Micah Alexander; Z pulled ahead to a 25-12 victory.
Set three featured the same offensive pressure from Z, with Turner trolling the net and Brondyke and sophomore Jordan Alexander driving points home. Basil couldn’t find a spark, and the set drew to a quick close at 25-14.
With their season on the line, Basil came to life in the fourth set. But it was too little, too late.
Zeta Chi continued to dominate the net offensively and defensively, and while Basil’s offense put up more points in the fourth set, they weren’t able to stop the Tornadoes, who went ahead 24-19. The Eagles threatened to stage a last-minute run, but João do Nascimento committed a crucial double-touch offence and sent the Tornadoes to the league championship game.