Newark, NJ - Shaking off the early season jitters, the IPFW Mastodons opened the 2011 campaign with a three-set sweep of the NJIT Highlanders 26-24, 25-15, 25-20.
Recently passed via NCAA legislation, the season-opener also marked the first in the new 25-point-set era as the men's game joined the women in adopting the shorter set in rally scoring.
The first set of the new year started on shaky ground for the Mastodons, as they trailed by as many as four at 21-17 before the offense came alive. Coming out of the huddle from an IPFW timeout, freshman outside hitter Eddie Rivera Marin fired an ace, sparking a four-point Mastodon run that knotted the opening frame at 21 each. NJIT battled back, taking a slim lead at 23-22 and prompting another timeout from the IPFW bench.
A kill from IPFW newcomer Adam Quinn tied the set at 23, but the Highlanders' continued to battle as Herman Kantushov gave the home team a set-point opportunity at 24-23. Senior Darryl Shank and sophomore Rob Samp came up with a huge block on the next play to tie the match and after an NJIT attack error, Samp again answered the call as he and Elon Fyfield stuffed Kantushov at the net for the block and opening set victory.
Fyfield posted five of his team-high seven kills in an opening set that saw the 'Dons hit at just a .167 clip.
The second set was all IPFW from the start. After redshirting in the 2010 season, sophomore Phil Peterson kicked off the second frame with a kill that started a 14-4 Mastodon run. With that cushion, the relaxed squad pushed the lead to as many as 11 before closing out the middle game with a kill by Rivera Marin.
The third, and what would prove to be final, set was a back-and-forth battle. NJIT used four IPFW errors and an ace to jump out to an early 5-0 lead. Steadily chipping away, the 'Dons would tie the frame at 8-8 as the two sides traded serves.
Taking advantage of IPFW attacking woes, the Highlanders took a 19-16 lead after an IPFW error. Led by seniors Darryl Shank and Shaun Dryden, the Mastodons answered with a six-point run and scored nine of the next 10 points, as Jonathan Meyer fired an ace and Corey Frain and Eddie Rivera Marin posted the game-sealing block for the final two points of a 25-20 win.
Fyfield led the squad in kills with seven, trailed by Eddie Rivera Marin at six and Shank and Ivan Matos at five. As a team, IPFW posted 12 blocks and were led by Samp's one solo and four assists. Junior Dan Mader and newcomer Adam Quinn shared the setting duties and posted 14 and 15 assists, respectively.
As a team IPFW posted a .182 hitting percentage and held the Highlanders in the negatives, as they hit at -.032 for the match.
The Mastodons and Highlanders will meet again tomorrow at the Fleischer Center in Newark. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.