North Greenville did on Sunday what no other Conference Carolinas team has ever done:
Win an NCAA men’s volleyball tournament match.
The Crusaders knocked out Princeton 25-21, 25-18, 40-38 in UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion to move into a Tuesday quarterfinal match against Hawai’i.
“Never in a million years,” said retiring North Greenville coach Fred Battenfield. “Most people thought North Greenville — what? Who are these guys? Do they belong here?
“I had faith in these guys.”
His team has won eight matches in a row, the longest streak of any of the six teams left after the Crusaders won their first-round play-in.
On Tuesday, host UCLA (21-4) will play MPSF rival Pepperdine (19-9), with the winner getting top-seeded Long Beach State of the Big West on Thursday.
In the second quarterfinal, North Greenville (21-5) plays the Big West’s Hawai’i (24-5), with the winner facing second-seeded Ball State of the MIVA on Thursday.
UCLA swept Pepperdine in both their meetings this season, winning 25-19, 30-28, 25-22 at Pepperdine on April 7 and then 25-23, 25-19, 25-19 at UCLA two days later.
Hawai’i and North Greenville are meeting for the first time. North Greenville played its conference matches this season (going 12-2) and in non-conference never ventured outside the East.
This was the eighth NCAA match for a Conference Carolinas team since the league got an automatic bid in 2014. The only other time a Conference Carolinas team won a set was in 2019 when Barton lost in four to Princeton.
“That was history,” Battenfield said. “I’ve been saying this all season long. We’ve never won a conference championship — took care of that. Never won a first round in the NCAA Tournament – took care of that. Second round is going to be a little more difficult, but I told other people, it’s just volleyball. It’s just volleyball. Bump, set, spike.”
North Greenville, which had eight previous match points in the third set, took a 39-38 lead on a service error and won it on an attack error. The Crusaders, who hit .333 and had six aces and 11 errors, got 19 kills from Gregory Torres. He hit .314 and had a block, five digs, no aces and six errors.
“Gregory Torres had a great game tonight,” Battenfield said.
Michael de la Cruz added 10 kills with one error in 17 attacks to hit .529 and had three aces, two blocks and a dig. Diego Rosich had seven kills, two blocks and seven digs. Emanuel Adames had four kills in seven errorless attacks and six blocks. Sergio Carrillo had 37 assists, three aces, four blocks and five digs.
“What a thrill. For me, most of you know I’m retiring after this tournament,” Battenfield said. “Well, we get to go two more days in California. I like that! This is beautiful weather out here. It’s great.”
EIVA-champion Princeton, which was making its third NCAA appearance, had won 10 matches in a row. The Tigers’ season ended 15-13. Princeton hit .175 and had seven aces and 16 errors. James Hartley had 19 kills and hit .306 to go with an ace, a block and nine digs. Ben Harrington had 10 kills, two aces, two blocks and four digs. Nyherowo Omene had six kills, three aces, a block and a dig.