Fullerton, CA- Hope International played probably their best overall match of the season as they beat Warner in the MAMVIC National Division Championship on Saturday evening. The 3-0 win (25-22, 25-22, 25-16) over the WU Royals qualified the HIU Royals for the NAIA Invitational in April. Freshman Thomas Cervetti delivered 14 kills while Freshman Dominique Blonski posted 10 kills. Senior Danilo Pereira, the MAMVIC National Division Player of the Year, passed out 42 assists.
The first set started with a service and hitting error by the HIU Royals (14-7). A few points later, HIU used a 4-0 run to take a 5-3 lead with the fifth point coming on a service ace from Senior Andrew Speth. After building a 9-5 lead, the HIU Royals allowed the WU Royals (14-9) to tie the match at 9-9 and then 10-10. Warner would take an 11-10 lead on the next point. With the score tied at 13-13. Cervetti threw down a kill that brought the hometown crowd to their feet and gave HIU a 14-13 edge. They would not surrender even a tie the rest of the set.
Cervetti recorded 6 kills with a .444 hitting first set. Speth and Junior Jeff Wolf both had added 3 kills without an error. HIU had 18 kills as a team in the opener.
In the second set, Speth recorded two kills as the set started out 2-2. Cervetti connected on another kill and HIU moved to the top side of the score board for good in the set. Despite HIU holding a lead the rest of the set, Warner did not go away. In fact at nine different times in the set, the WU Royals were down by just one point. The last one point difference came at 23-22. Wolf made sure the HIU Royals closed out the set as he pounded down a kill and teamed with Blonski on a block to end the set.
Blonski produced 5 kills in the second. Pereira recorded an assist on all 16 HIU kills in the set.
The third and final set started out identical as the second with a 2-2 tie and the HIU Royals took the lead for good at 3-2. However, unlike the first set, HIU just took off from the early tie and lead by as many as 8 points at 15-7. Warner had one more mini run in them before Hope International took complete control of the set. Blonski put an exclamation point on the win with a solo block on match point to begin the celebration.
Cervetti finished the set with five kills.
Meanwhile, Wolf was 8 of 11 on attacks without an error (.727) for the match. Sophomore Griffin Levinski finished with 6 kills with just one error (.500) on the evening.
Defensively, Senior Henry Valiente topped the team with 11 digs. Cervetti added 10 digs.
Head Coach Victor Jennings-Santiago commented, "We played at a higher level and executed our offense as well as we have all year. If we continue to play together, we should find success at the National Invitational."
After the match, Hope International took home some tournament and division hardware.
Pereira was named the MAMVIC National Division Player of the Year. Valiente was named the MAMVIC National Division Defensive Player of the Year. Jennings-Santiago garnered MAMVIC National Division Coach of the Year recognition.
Cervetti and Levinski joined Pereira on the MAMVIC National Division First Team All-Conference. Valiente earned MAMVIC National Division Second Team All-Conference honors.
As evident by the MAMVIC National honors, Jennings-Santiago added, "Out of my five years here, this is the best well-rounded team I have coached."
Even with already punching their ticket to the NAIA National Invitational, HIU still has a few matches left to close the regular season. On Monday, Hope International will host Lindenwood (MO) at 7:30 pm in the Darling Pavilion. That will be Senior Night and the final home match for the five Seniors in the HIU program- Pereira, Valiente, Speth, Mark Hebda, and Cash Kent.