January 13, 2012

GCU Wins Home Opener over NJIT

GCU VOLLEYBALL WINS HOME OPENER AT ARENA

Grand Canyon University’s men’s volleyball team won its home opener with a 3-2 decision over NJIT at Grand Canyon University Arena Friday.

With a hitting percentage of .369 – the third best for a single match in school history – GCU won by set scores of 27-29, 25-18, 25-18, 21-25, 15-8.

Jordon Tarantino had 20 kills and hit .375, while Ben Ponnet added 19 with a .444 average. Setter Keith Smith had a career-high 58 assists.

It was only the fourth time a GCU player has had 20 kills in a match. It was the second time for Tarantino, who is the single-match record-holder with 25. Ponnet’s 19 were a career-high. He had 18 in a win at NJIT last season.

GCU hit .500 or better in its second and third set victories. The ’Lopes were successful on 15 of 24 attacks with only three errors in the second (.500) and finished 15 swings of 23 with only two mistakes in the third (.565).

“That’s as good as we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said second-year head coach Jeremy Price, who is 2-0 in home openers. “We played like we were capable of playing and we started blocking.”

After going without a block in the first-set loss, GCU had seven in the second and third sets combined.

The Highlanders knotted it up in the fourth set before the Antelopes turned it up in the fifth. Again, blocking was a key. GCU had four in the set, and were sparked off the bench by sophomore middle Christopher Lockwood, who picked up a pair of block assists.

Grand Canyon finished with 15 total blocks. Setter Smith had a team-high six block assists. Tarantino and middle blockers Connor Dougherty and Ryan Mather all had five block assists.

Mather added 12 kills and hit an impressive .588. Dougherty had five kills, as well. Off the bench, freshman outside hitter Ryan Olson had three service aces. Libero Trent Bruns and Ponnet each had seven digs.

“In our three sets we won, we served real well,” said Price. “The two sets we lost we didn’t serve well.”

GCU improved to 2-2 on the season and will play NJIT again 7 p.m. Saturday at the arena. NJIT will take on UC San Diego Saturday at 3 p.m. GCU and UC San Diego meet Sunday at 2 p.m.

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