The Red Flash in the inaugural NEC match showed exactly why they were picked as the preseason favorite to win the newest NCAA men’s volleyball conference.
Saint Francis utilizing multiple setters finished with a .345 attack percentage as it swept Fairleigh Dickinson 25-22, 25-21, 25-17 to open conference play on Friday in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Setter Ryan Parker came off the bench following the opening-game win and guided the offense to hit more than .300 in each of the final team games, including a match-best .481 attack percentage in the second game. The setter also had back-to-back aces as part of a 5-0 run to help the Red Flash take a three-point lead midway through the final game en route to completing the sweep.
Parker replaced senior setter AJ Schmidt who was in the starting lineup for the second consecutive match.
Middle attacker Brandon Dunz had seven kills and zero errors on a match-high .636 attack percentage and was one of three Saint Francis players with more than five kills.
Outside attacker Andrew Deardorff ended with a team-high 11 kills and hit .333. In addition, outside attacker Blake Liprando contributed 10 kills on a .318 attack percentage with eight of those kills coming in the final two games.
Along with the offensive performance, Saint Francis (2-7, 1-0 NEC) held Fairleigh Dickinson to a season-low zero aces.
Fairleigh Dickinson (3-3, 0-1 NEC) playing in its first match in 20 days hit .270 against Saint Francis.
Outside attacker Dylan McFadden in the loss led the Knights with both a season-high 11 kills and a .455 attack percentage. McFadden was the only Fairleigh Dickinson player to have double-digit kills.
Both Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Francis are among the eight teams competing in the inaugural season of the NEC. The NEC announced in 2021 that it would become the second multiple-sport Division I conference in the nation to sponsor men’s volleyball.
Saint Francis was picked to win the inaugural NEC championship in the conference’s preseason coaches poll. The winner of the NEC this year will not receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.