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Men’s Volleyball Team Wins EPCC Championship

The Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s volleyball team captured its first Eastern Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference championship Saturday with a 3-2 win over Harrisburg Area Community College. Individual game scores were 22-25, 25-16, 25-16, 21-25 and 15-9.

“It feels wonderful. It really does,” said Wes Strayer, coach of the Wildcats, after his team completed a 26-1 season. “The kids really deserve it. They played wonderful all year. You can’t ask for anything better than that. I’m just elated.”

The top seed and league tournament host, Penn College breezed past Penn State Delaware County, 25-6, 25-6, in its semifinal match at Bardo Gymnasium while Harrisburg advanced to the title match by beating Lehigh Carbon Community College, 25-18, 25-17.

In the first game of the best-of-five final, Harrisburg got off to an early lead, going ahead by seven points at 19-12. Penn College narrowed the gap to two points twice, the last time at 23-21, before Harrisburg closed it out.

The second game saw Penn College build a six-point lead at 10-4 before HACC came to within 16-13. The Wildcats then pulled away to even the match at 1-1.

After five early ties in the third game, the last at 5-all, Penn College opened a seven-point lead three times and went on to win by nine for a 2-1 lead in games.

With its back to the wall in the fourth game, Harrisburg forced four early ties before going out in front 13-7. The Wildcats got within two points twice, the last at 15-17, before Harrisburg sealed things to force a decisive fifth game.

Penn College put the pressure on early, opening an 8-3 lead. Harrisburg closed within two at 9-7 and 10-8, but the Wildcats were not to be denied and scored five of the last six points to claim the crown.

“(After getting down early in the first game) they played complacent,” Strayer assessed. “We had a talk about it and they picked it up in the second and third games, then they kind of got flat in the fourth game. They thought they had it wrapped up, I really do think that. So they had to come out in the fifth and play hard. They kept their heads and kept their composure, which is wonderful.”

“We picked it up on our blocks and played good defense behind our hits. It was great. They picked it up when they had to,” Strayer added, mentioning the play of Cody Umberger (Lower Dauphin), Phil Neiderer (New Oxford), Gregg Stoneham (Hunterdon, N.J.) and Tom Holeva (Guys Mills).

Winning the EPCC title was especially sweet for Umberger, who came up with several huge hits Saturday against Harrisburg.

“It was very disappointing last season. I broke my foot and had to sit out (the championship match against Delaware) and watch the team lose. (This year) I’m pleased. We’ve all been working hard for this and it paid off we won!” Umberger said. “I do my best every game and I hope my play picks up the other guys.”

Strayer said of Umberger, “There’s no doubt about it. Every time we need something, we go to Cody and he gets up there and does it for you. He stepped up. He stepped up big.”

“It was a well-played match from both teams. It just came down to a few plays and they made the plays and we didn’t,” said Terry Ranck, Harrisburg coach.

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