Park Sweeps St. Ambrose, Earns Spot in NAIA Tournament Final
Parkville, Mo. - Park University continued on its quest for a national title and got one step closer with a semifinal sweep over No. four seed St. Ambrose. The Pirates remain undefeated over St. Ambrose with 30-23, 30-23 and 30-27 wins.
The Pirates had three players finish in the top ten for kills, with Henry Uribe leading all players with 18 kills. Ryan Stafford recorded 12 kills while Erick Albuquerque added 11. Senior setter J.P. da Silva recorded 49 assists and Albuquerque led all players with nine digs.
The Pirates dominated early on in game one, scoring three quick points with kills from Henry Uribe and Caio Maciel. St. Ambrose tied the game at 3-3 off of an attacking error by Albuquerque. Park earned three straight points with back-to-back kills and a Joe Bara service error for a 9-4 lead.
The next ten points resulted in a back-and-forth battle. Bara would get the Bees back within four, but Park would keep racking on points, one at a time.
Park gained an eight point advantage following a Stafford and Maciel block, taking a 15-7 lead. The Bees retaliated with a kill from Mike Mestendorf. The Pirates held a steady six point lead through the next five rallies.
Park held a 23-15 lead and it appeared to be smooth sailing to getting one step closer to the championship match, but if there's one thing St. Ambrose has proven, it's that they never give up until the last point is awarded. The Bees went on a six-point run to get back within five (25-20) and force head coach Cory Frederick to take a timeout. The Pirates refocused their energies and got back on track towards their game one victory with an Albuquerque kill for game point.
J.P. da Silva and Ryan Stafford would connect for the final point, for a 30-23 win over St. Ambrose.
Game two of the semifinal match started off close, with the two teams tied at 2-2. A Stafford kill, followed by an Uribe kill and service ace would give the Pirates a 5-3 lead. A long rally earned St. Ambrose their fourth point of the game, sealed with a Bara kill off an assist from Kyle Warrenfeltz to cut Park's lead to 6-4.
Back-to-back Bee errors gave the Pirates two more points and an 8-4 lead. An Uribe kill off a da Silva set kept Park ahead at 11-9.
Uribe continued the Pirate surge from the left side with three kills in a row and extended Park's lead to 15-9, forcing St. Ambrose head coach Bill Gleeson to take a timeout and regroup his team.
Bill Kramer set teammates Rob Brannigan and Zak Krumlinde for two easy points and got within eight, 22-14. A Stafford kill and service ace didn't keep the Bees down for long, as Krumlinde answered back with a hard hit to the wood floor. On the next play, a St. Ambrose brick wall composed of Kramer and Mestendorf would silence the Pirates for the point.
The Pirates got to 26-19 on back on Uribe, with two more big hits.
St. Ambrose cut the lead once again to 26-21, after a Park attack error and a block assist from Brannigan and Bara in back to back plays.
The Pirates got to game point on a Bee service error and a game defining kill by Dragomir Katanic put Park up 2-0 in the series.
St. Ambrose kicked off game three with a big time block from Mestendorf, to score the first point. But Uribe carried momentum in from game two, answering with a kill and a da Silva service ace would give Park the 2-1 edge. The next three points kept the two teams neck in neck with both teams giving up little and playing long rallies.
Park took a 9-6 lead following a Stafford kill from the right back and a da Silva kill on a set dump.
The Bees got back within two (12-10) on a Scott Manthei kill and St. Ambrose kept fighting their way back, resulting in four tied up moments and one short lived lead change.
Park's sights on the final birth seemed to be set on a Stafford kill for a 28-24 lead, but the Bees were all about surprises this national tournament. St. Ambrose rallied back to score three unanswered points to get within one at 28-27.
It appeared as though their luck had finally run out though, a Bee attacking error lead to game point for Park and a commanding Uribe service ace would send Park to the final match.
Frederick was counting on this semifinal to be a tough test for his team and was pleased with the end result. "St. Ambrose is the best team I've seen at the tournament in terms of the way the play together," said Frederick. "They never give up and that's one thing we didn't want to affect us. We just wanted to get the lead and maintain it."
It has been an exciting national tournament for Park so far, with 101 career wins for coach Frederick and the senior class, and now they are just looking to achieve their final goal. "I expect my players to just play the same as they've been playing all tournament," said Frederick. "The one thing we want is to not play up and down and just play on a level field."
The Pirates will host the semifinal winner of Cardinal Stritch and California Baptist on Saturday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m. for the crowning of the 2008 Men's NAIA National Volleyball Tournament champion.
Article courtesy of Park athletics.