GCU Beats NJIT for Second Straight Night

Grand Canyon won its third straight match, second straight over New Jersey Institute of Technology, at Grand Canyon University Arena Saturday.

GCU beat NJIT 3-1 with set scores of 25-23, 25-19, 23-25, 29-27.

“It was good that our young guys learned you have to play all the time, not some of the time, not half of the time,” said GCU coach Jeremy Price. “(NJIT) had just played a five-set match (with UC San Diego) right before this and when we were up 2-0, we were the team that looked fatigued in the third set.”

After 12 ties and seven fourth-set lead changes, GCU solidified the final set on a kill from freshman middle Ryan Mather, who had five kills on 11 attacks in the final two sets.

Sophomore outside hitter Ben Ponnet had a match-best 18 kills. Junior hitter Jordon Tarantino finished with 17 and sophomore middle hitter Christopher Lockwood, in the starting lineup for the first time since 2010, had an impressive performance with 12 kills on 18 tries, with only three errors for a .500 average.

“It was nice to have Chris Lockwood back in the starting lineup for the first time in a long time,” said Price.
GCU battled back from three set points in the fourth. A Lockwood kill tied it at 25 and a Mather-Tarantino block followed a NJIT service error for a 27-26 lead. The Highlanders tied it before a Tarantino kill proceeded Mather’s match-winner.

“At this point in the season, we’re judging not just by wins and losses, though those are the most important, but we’re seeing some improvement and we’re seeing some inconsistencies,” added Price.

One of the consistent has been a strong effort blocking. GCU has had 14.5 or more blocks, including a season-high 16 Saturday, in four of five matches. It had over 11.5 only once all last season.

“We put a lot of emphasis on blocking in the fall,” Price said. “It’s starting to pay off, but we can still get better.”

Mather had one solo block and eight block assists. Setter Keith Smith had eight block assists, as well. Tarantino and Lockwood each had four block assists. Ponnet and Ben Hunt both had three.

Mather’s nine total blocks are tied for second for most by a ‘Lope in a single match. In 2010, Lockwood had 11 in one contest.

Smith added 51 assists on 54 kills. Libero Trent Bruns had a team-high 11 digs.

Grand Canyon will finish its homestand with a 2 p.m. Sunday contest at GCU Arena against UC San Diego, which knocked off No. 11 Hawai’i earlier in the season. The Tritons beat NJIT in five-sets Saturday.

All the action from Sunday's contest can be seen courtesy of the AmericaOne Network. Live stats will also be available on GCULopes.com.

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