NAPERVILLE, Ill. (MCVL.org) - One of Division III's best men's volleyball programs added a major accomplishment on Saturday, as No. 2 Carthage swept Loras, 3-0, to earn their first NCAA automatic bid in program history. Carthage (24-1) is likely to host an NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship Regional next weekend and also is the host for the national finals on April 27-28 in Kenosha, Wis.
Loras, which had to win two matches last weekend just to get into the MCVL tournament, completed an amazing two-weekend stretch and season with a 14-11 overall record and an MCVL semifinal upset of North Central.
Loras took some time to get their legs under them, falling behind 11-5 in the opening set. Things got worse when the Red Men pulled away to a 20-11 lead on Kelvin Rivera's kill. Rivera, outstanding both yesterday and today, was chosen the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Loras wasn't dead and pulled back to within 23-21 following an attack error. Rivera's kill and a set-clinching kill by Kai Cromwell were the decisive swings as Carthage took the first set, 25-22.
Carthage used the first-set momentum to jump out to a 10-6 lead in the second. Loras then ran off 10 points to the Red Men's three as "Uncle Mo" clearly reversed field. A kill by Leo Peters was the Duhawks' last three-point lead of the set at 17-14.
Things still looked good for the underdogs when a Carthage service error made it 22-20 in favor of the Duhawks. Cromwell's kill and a ball-handling error by Loras tied the match at 22. The match also was tied at 24 before Rivera's kill and Mason Moore's kill closed out the set, 26-24.
Loras didn't seem fazed by the late-set loss, rushing out to a 5-1 lead in set three. The Duhawks couldn't hold the lead, however, as Carthage went on a run to lead 12-10 on Moore's kill. A key burst came with Carthage up 20-18 and on serve-receive. A Loras attack error and a service ace by Cromwell made it 22-18 and forced a timeout. Kills from Moore and Rivera shut the door and sealed the victory, winning the third set for the Red Men, 25-21.
Carthage teammates Cromwell and Matt Reinsel joined Rivera on the MCVL All-Tournament Team. Rivera had a match-high 12 kills and nine digs while Cromwell had eight kills and hit .316 for the match. Reinsel added 27 assists that his teammates converted at a .964 kill rate.
Alfredo Lopez and Joe Jendra made the all-tournament team from Loras. Lopez had 33 assists and a match-high three service aces. Jendra led the team with 11 kills and three block assists. Rivera and Jendra, notably, are both freshmen.
North Central's Samuel Kharasch and Mount St. Joseph's Andrew Chisholm rounded out the all-tournament team.
Carthage is the top-ranked team in the West Region and is a logical selection to host next weekend's regional. A regional win would create the dream scenario of playing for a national title on the Red Men's home floor. The 12-team field for the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship is announced on Monday with play scheduled to begin at four regional sites on Friday, April 20.