NJIT Wins Big in 2008 Playoff Opener, Defeats Springfield 3-0


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Newark, N.J. - NJIT made its first home playoff match since 2000 a memorable one, sweeping Springfield, 3-0 (30-19, 30-23, 30-15) in the opening round of the 2008 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Playoff Tournament first round Wednesday night in the Estelle and Zoom Fleisher Athletic Center.

Springfield, the seventh seed in the eight-team EIVA playoffs by virtue of having won the lower power-rated EIVA Hay Division, finishes its season with a 20-7 record.

One of three Division III teams, along with Juniata and NYU, competing in the EIVA, the top men's volleyball circuit in the East, Springfield came into the Fleisher Athletic Center fresh from winning the 2008 Division III national championship on April 12.

NJIT, seeded sixth in the eight-team EIVA playoffs as the sixth-place team in the higher power-rated EIVA Tait Division, is 12-13 overall, including 8-0 against Eastern teams that compete outside the Tait Division.

NJIT, which hit .418 (49 kills, 11 errors, 91 attempts) as a team Wednesday, got 15 kills from 2008 all-East junior Amobi Armstrong and 14 from 2007 all-East Leonardo Paludo, who was one of six Highlander seniors to play their last career home match.

Setter Rodrigo Correa triggered the Highlanders attack with 40 assists and senior Eduardo Welter, a four-year star, notched five of his team's nine service aces, as the Highlanders sported a 9-1 advantage in that category.

Welter and fellow senior Chris Siddayao led NJIT's floor defense with seven digs apiece and another senior, Greg Wagner, had a match-best four blocks (one solo, three assists), pacing the Highlanders to a 7-4 team blocking edge.

Springfield got eight kills from sophomore AJ Nally, while sophomore setter Eric Shoemaker, the tournament Most Outstanding Player of Springfield's Division III national championship win last weekend, posted 22 assists against NJIT. Nally was also Springfield's digs leader, with five, while junior Andy Sipe had a team-leading three blocks (one solo, two assists) and the Pride's only service ace of the match.

NJIT never trailed at any point in the three-game match and was tied just four times times--at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 in game one and at 5-5 in game two.

Paludo delivered a kill to break the game one tie at 4-3 and NJIT pulled away, with its 11-point margin at 30-19 the widest bulge of game one.

Armstrong had seven kills and just one error and Paludo had six kills with a lone error in game one to pace the Highlanders, who hit .486 (21 kills, 3 errors, 37 attacks) in the frame.

Paludo's kill also broke the 5-5 tie in game two and NJIT eventually built a 27-17 lead before settling for the 30-23 victory, as Armstrong notched five kills.

The Highlanders fired on all cylinders in clinching the match with a 30-15 win in game three. They scored the first four points and never led by fewer than three points en route to the impressive win against a quality foe.

The final game attack totals underlined the 30-15 win, as the Highlanders notched 14 kills with just one error in 24 swings for an overwhelming .542 attack percentage in the clincher.

NJIT, which did not qualify for postseason from 2001 to 2005, returned to the playoffs in 2006 as the second-place team in the Hay Division and repeated in 2007 after winning the Hay, which also earned the Highlanders promotion to the Tait for the just-completed 2008 regular season.

However, Wednesday's match marked the first home playoff action for NJIT since 2000 and the result was also the Highlanders' first playoff win since 2000.

The rest of the Highlanders' 2008 playoff run will take place on the road, starting Saturday at 7 pm when they play at EIVA Tait Division rival Princeton in the quarterfinals. Princeton, one of three Tait teams to post 6-6 divisional records, is the third seed in the playoffs as determined by artificial statistical tiebreakers.

Princeton and NJIT split their two matches this year. NJIT (4-8 Tait) lost at Princeton, 1-3 on March 5 and then defeated the Tigers, 3-2, at home on April 2.

Princeton eliminated the Highlanders from the 2006 EIVA playoffs with a 3-1 opening-round win.

Saint Francis (PA), seeded fourth, was also 6-6 in the Tait and got an opening round bye along with Princeton. Fifth-seeded Juniata, also 6-6 in the Tait, hosted eighth-seeded NYU (second place in the Hay) in Thursday's other first-round match.

The EIVA's top two teams, Penn State, ranked first in the nation, and George Mason, ranked 12th nationally, have byes into the Playoff Tournament semifinals which will be held at Penn State on April 24, with the championship match on April 26.

The EIVA champion automatically receives one of four berths in the 2008 NCAA Volleyball Championship, to be contested on May 1 and 3 in Irvine, CA.

Article courtesy of NJIT athletics.

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