PARKVILLE, Mo. — It took a trip over 1,500 miles to decide a regular season split between two Southern California rivals, but No. 1 California Baptist will play in the NAIA Men’s Volleyball National Invitational title game for the sixth straight year after a 3-1 (30-16, 29-31, 30-21, 30-26) win over No. 4 Hope International.
“It really is one at a time at this stage in the season and we couldn’t play in the championship if we didn’t win this one, so this was obviously big for us,” said CBU head coach Ryan McGuyre. “Trevor (Johnson) put together a great game plan tonight. Not only did we have a great night with blocks, but we came up with some big digs and that was key to putting guys in the right spots. It’s exciting to be in the championship, but it’s short lived. We need to get some rest and be ready to go tomorrow night.”
The two schools had split matches during the regular season with the Lancers (25-7) winning 3-1 in Fullerton, Calif., before the Royals (16-10) stole the regular-season finale away from CBU after trailing 2-0 in Van Dyne Gym.
The Lancers rode the horses that carried them this year as Levi Cabral and Adiel Tiedjop combined for 51 of CBU’s 66 kills. Cabral ripped a match-high 26 and hit .416 while Tiedjop had 25. Cabral also served a career-high seven aces, had four digs and two blocks while Tiedjop posted five aces, eight digs and four blocks. Blair Penner dished out 60 assists and served a pair of aces.
“Our serving was definitely the key to tonight’s win said,” McGuyre. “Not only were we getting aces, but it helped us on defense too. We were able to take them out of their system. Hope runs a fun, but complicated offense that has a lot of different options. If you serve tough it limits those options.”
Freshman Garet Kreutziger played more like a seasoned veteran, posting a career-high seven blocks. Adam Church also notched four blocks while Mike MacNeill had three. MacNeill also recorded a match-high nine digs.
“This was the challenge that was put to Garet,” said McGuyre. “He knows he’s undersized as a middle and he’s tired of hearing that. I’m excited to see him playing this well right now.”
Hope scored the first point of the match, but it was the Lancers who went on a 6-1 run that included a kill and an ace by Cabral to take a 6-2 lead. CBU then led 10-7 when Cabral sparked a 16-5 run to put the Lancers out front 26-12. Tiedjop had five kills and two aces in that stretch and Cabral had three kills. Cabral then scored three of the last four points of the set with a pair of kills and a set-ending ace. The Lancers hit .792 (19-0-24) in the opening set.
CBU held a one-point lead four times in the second set with final coming at 4-3. That’s when Aurel Stenzel sparked a 4-1 run to give a 7-5 lead to the Royals. Hope then held a three-point lead three times and led 12-9 before the Lancers used a 4-1 run to take a 14-13 lead. The Royals answered with three straight to hold a 16-13 advantage and eventually pushed their lead to 21-17. The Lancers then tied the set at 22 with a 5-1 run that included two Cabral aces a Tiedjop kill. The Lancers retook the lead at 25-24 on a Hope error, but gave it right back with an error and an Alex Figueiredo kill. The Lancers tied it at 26 on a Tiedjop kill and after ties at 27 and 28; Cabral gave the Lancers set point at 29-28 with an ace. Hope took advantage of consecutive errors by CBU to gain a set point of its own before Figueiredo put the set away with a kill.
Tied at 2-2 in the third, Cabral blasted a kill to give the Lancers a 3-2 lead. It was the first of five straight points, which included two aces and a kill from Cabral, with the last four coming behind the service of Cabral. After Hope made it 7-3, Church made it 8-3 with a kill and handed the ball to MacNeill who put CBU in position to score the next two to go up 10-3. CBU took its largest lead five times with the last coming at 22-11, but the Royals answered with a 6-1 run to pull within six at 23-17. CBU led 26-20 before closing out the set with a 4-1 run that was capped by three straight kills from Cabral.
Cabral sparked a 12-5 run in the fourth with a kill that broke a 4-4 tie and put the Lancers up 16-9. The Royals stormed back with an 8-2 run to get within one at 18-17, but CBU pushed back out to 20-17. A pair of errors put Hope within one again at 20-19, but that was as close as the Royals came. The Lancers all but put the match away with a 7-2 run to take a 27-21 lead before Cabral slammed two straight kills and Tiedjop closed it out with his final kill.
The Lancers now will take on No. 2 Lindenwood and look to take back the title on the same court it was taken from them last year by Park. The first serve is set for 7 p.m.