(Springfield, MA) Playing in the first ever NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Tournament, the 7th seeded Rivier College Raiders knew it was going to take a maximum effort in order to advance through the quarterfinals. Going up against #2 University of California-Santa Cruz, the Raiders fell just three points short from victory as they lost the fifth set 15-12 and the game, 3-2.
Rivier (26-9 overall) came out on fire as they took the first set 25-23 behind the strong play from freshman Shane Spellman (Norwich, CT), who laced 8 kills including the set winner with a service ace. The Raiders trailed 23-22 before Spellman led the charge to obtain the final three points and the set.
UC-Santa Cruz (17-6 overall) would take the next two sets by identical scores of 25-20 to take the lead a one set lead at 2-1. However, the Raiders would not fall easy as they mounted a comeback in the fourth set.
After three straight points by the Banana Slugs, Rivier found themselves down 18-15 and their season beginning to come to an end. Senior Andrew Corwin (Framingham, MA) stepped up and with a kill, a service ace and another point on his serve (service error on UCSC), the Raiders had tied it up and momentum swung in their favor. The teams would exchange points until Rivier pulled away with four consecutive points to get the score to 24-20 before freshman Chris Markuson (Cupertino, CA) ended it with a kill of a beautiful assist from junior Steve Visentin (Cheshire, CT).
The fifth and deciding set was as nerve-wracking as possible. The two squads battled their way and traded points until they were knotted at 11 apiece. In the end, it was UCSC's Thomas Davidson that knocked down the final kill to end the remarkable 2012 season for the Raiders.
Spellman finished the game with a season high 17 kills while Markuson was the team leader with 18 kills. Senior Alex Xenidis (Shelton, CT) had 9 kills in his final game for Rivier while sophomore Aaron Almario (Alhambria, CA) contributed with 8 kills. Visentin recorded 53 assists and seniors Corwin and Chris Convertito (Trumbull, CT) had 17 and 10 digs, respectively.
For UC-Santa Cruz they were paced by Salvatore La Cavera's 22 kills and received 10 kill efforts from Shane Yablonka, Will Klepac and Davidson. Paul Leon tied Visentin for the game high in assists (53) while also leading the defensive charge with 14 digs.
The Raiders accomplished a lot in the 2012 season. They went a perfect 14-0 in the GNAC, won their fifth straight GNAC Tournament title and made the NCAA Elite Eight.