OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Southern Vermont College men's volleyball team's 2015 season came to a close Saturday afternoon as the Mountaineers fell 3-0 to top-seeded Wentworth Institute of Technology in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Championship tournament held at Stevenson University.
The Leopards lost to Stevenson 3-1 in the title match, finishing their season with an overall mark of 24-9. Southern Vermont finishes the campaign with a program-best 16-11, the first time the team has ever closed out a season with an above-.500 record.
WIT edged the Mountaineers 26-24 in the opening set before taking a 25-19 second. The third frame also had to go to extra points with the Leopards finally closing it out at 27-25 to win the match.
Senior Joey Dighton (Riverside, Calif.) led his team in his last match as a Mountaineer, tallying 10 kills and just one attack error on 16 swings for a .562 hitting percentage; he added three digs and three block assists to his day's line. Freshman Stewart Ramirez (Los Angeles, Calif.) followed with seven kills, four digs and three total blocks while senior Keven Walley (Pico Rivera, Calif.) had six kills and three digs in the effort.
Senior setter Herson Canta (Lagunitas, Calif.) assisted on 26 of the 31 SVC kills while notching three digs and a pair of block assists, and classmate Scott Fitzgerald (Queensbury, N.Y.) registered five kills and five digs in his last match in a Mountaineer uniform.
Four straight points gave Southern Vermont a 7-5 lead in the early going of the opening set before another four unanswered points put the Mountaineers up 18-14 later on. Wentworth took to a 6-2 run to tie the game, but SVC grabbed the next three for a 23-20 edge. The Leopards closed out the set with a 6-1 spurt, however, to take the match advantage.
Wentworth jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the second frame before Southern Vermont closed it to a 7-6 WIT edge. The Leopards would go on a 6-1 run to go up by six (18-12), and they maintained that separation to the 25-19 win for the 2-0 lead in the contest.
The Mountaineers scored the first four points of the third set, and they would lead by as many as six (14-8) midway through the game. Down 18-15, Wentworth stormed to a 7-1 run that put the Leopards on top 22-19. SVC refused to lay down and fought back to tie it at 24-24, but WIT was able to win three of the next four points to take the semifinal match and move on to the championship.
Southern Vermont concluded the season with a slew of records set, both in the career and season categories. Ramirez finished with 307 kills, the most ever by a Mountaineer in a single campaign; that also puts him at fifth on the SVC career leaderboard after just his rookie season. Canta totaled 975 assists in 2015, easily making him the program's all-time leader with 2,346 after just three years in a Mountaineer uniform. Walley recorded 36 service aces, the second-most in a single season, to place him second on the all-time aces list with 77; he also finishes his collegiate career with 767 kills, the third-most a Mountaineer has ever registered.
Fitzgerald followed with 28 service aces to rank fifth for a single season and third in a career (67). Senior libero Tino Escovedo (Fresno, Calif.) tallied the third-most digs in a year with 276, setting the SVC career bar high with 1,020 in his time as a Mountaineer. Dighton knocked down 72 blocks in 2015, helping him extend his career record to 267.
Dighton now ranks second in SVC history with 856 kills while being fourth with 64 service aces. Walley totaled 96 blocks for the fourth-most in program history and is now fourth for all-time digs at Southern Vermont with 505. Fitzgerald finishes his collegiate career with 452 kills for fourth on the all-time Mountaineer record list while Canta concludes his tenure with 59 service aces to rank fifth on that chart.