Romeoville, IL - A valiant effort saw the
fifth-seeded IPFW Mastodons battle their way deep into the fifth
set where the 2011 season came to a heart-breaking end at the hands
of the fourth-seeded and 14th-ranked Lewis Flyers, 20-25, 25-23,
22-25, 27-25, 15-17.
Playing in his final game in the Royal Blue and White, senior captain Darryl Shank led the way with 23 kills, a .340 attack percentage and 10 digs. Ivan Matos posted 16 kills and Eddie Rivera added 11 kills and 11 digs.
A hot start for the Flyers saw the home team take an early 6-2 lead. A Mastodon timeout attempted to slow the rush, but Lewis' attack was in a groove. A Flyer service error brought the score to within two points at 21-19, but from there Lewis posted four of the next five points to run away with a first set win that saw just one tie score and one lead change.
The sharp Flyer attack hit at a .450 rate in the first set to IPFW's .250 mark.
Set number two began again with a Flyer run as they started the set up 5-2. Battling back to nearly even throughout the set, Lewis maintained the upper hand, growing the lead to three at 22-19. A three-point IPFW run featuring kills by Ivan Matos and Rob Samp knotted the action at 22 apiece.
Garrett Bitter continued the IPFW pressure as the redshirt junior, playing in his final match, fired back-to-back service aces to take a set-point opportunity at 24-22. Interrupted briefly by a Flyer kill, Samp slammed home a kill on the short set to take the second set and even the match at 1-1 with a 25-23 set victory.
With both Dan Mader and Adam Quinn sharing the setting duties in the second set, the Mastodons hit .385 as a team and posted 3.5 blocks to limit a powerful Lewis attack that still managed to hit .481 in the set.
With the score tied at 15 in the third set, the Flyers tallied consecutive points to take small two-point lead that would turn out to be huge. From there, the momentum-powered Flyers would not surrender their lead, taking a set-point opportunity at 24-20 and fighting off an IPFW run to take the third set, 25-22.
Overall, IPFW managed to hit just .111 overall in the set despite a tight score throughout.
For the most part, set number four played out in a near mirror image to the third - this time with the visiting 'Dons taking the upper hand. Tied at 15-15, IPFW built their momentum with an 18-16 lead. That advantage would grow as IPFW managed to tally six of the next ten points to take a game-tying set-point serve at 24-20.
Amazingly, the Flyers fought off four straight IPFW points to tie the match at 24 and swing the momentum back in their favor. Darryl Shank tallied a kill on the next point and Lewis' Jay Petty posted an answer to even the action at 25. A Flyer service error opened the door for the 'Dons and, with Shank on the serve, Petty's attack found the wrong side of the net falling to floor to even the barn-burner at two sets each.
Shank tallied eight of his game-high 23 kills in the fourth set to keep his squad alive.
The fifth and final set played out in much the same, tense fashion as the first four. The Flyers forced the turn as they took a brief 8-6 lead to open the first half of the final frame. From there, the two sides would battle back-and-forth to the finish.
The first match-point opportunity came at 14-13 Lewis after an IPFW attack error. After an Arnie Ball timeout, Matos evened the match with a kill down the line and Shank added a marker on the next play to give his team a match-ending serve.
A whistle from the Lewis bench slowed the momentum and Jay Petty posted two straight points to give his team a match-ending serve and, after an IPFW timeout failed to slow the rolling momentum, Petty added a third to close out the Mastodon season.
The loss is IPFW's fourth in as many years in the MIVA Quarterfinals and closes out the 2011 season at 16-12 overall.
The five-set heartbreaker was the final match for seniors Shaun Dryden, Garrett Bitter and Darryl Shank. The Class of 2011 closes out their time in Fort Wayne with 52 career wins.
With the victory, Lewis advances to face the top-seed Ohio State Buckeyes next Wednesday in Columbus.