BROOKLINE, Mass. - Familiar opponents meet again on the Postseason stage as the No. 5 Newbury Nighthawks travel to the No. 4 Eastern Nazarene College Lions on Tuesday night for a New England Collegiate Conference Quarterfinal match with the winner advancing to the NECC Semifinals on Thursday.
The comparisons between the Nighthawks and Lions are hard to ignore; same records against the NECC's top-three teams, 6-0 against the bottom of the table. Both hold a non-conference win against the same opponent. Both have qualified for the playoffs over the last three seasons. So where do the differences come in?
Largely, the difference is with Eastern Nazarene's success over the Nighthawks in the regular season, holding a 6-0 record over Newbury since the Lions launched their team in 2017. How does Newbury respond? By holding the one win that matters most: a 2017 NECC Quarterfinal, straight-sets sweep over the Lions.
And yet, plenty of similarities remain. The Nighthawks attack is led by sophomore Rory Dobbins (Warwick, R.I.) while the Lions respond with freshman Arthur Kossoski (Malden, Mass.). Both players rank inside the top-10 in kills per set this season. Dobbins' 2.99 K/S is good for sixth-best in the conference while Kossoski ranks ninth in K/S with 2.45.
Defensively, the Nighthawks sophomore Geral Rivera-Miranda (Everett, Mass.) and Lions junior Sunil Lepcha (Charlotte, N.C.) are top players in regards to digs per set. Rivera-Miranda led the conference in D/S this season, averaging 3.26 digs. Lepcha ranks third-best in the category among players and teams still in the postseason, having averaged 2.14 D/S this year.
The team stats show a similar story. The Lions rank fourth in team hitting percentage while the Nighthawks are a spot below in fifth. The same ranking goes for the sides in K/S.
In the first meeting of the season between Newbury and ENC, the Nighthawks and Lions needed five sets to find a winner. The fifth and deciding set went to Eastern Nazarene 15-6, as they picked up the 3-2 win. Dobbins finished the match with a career-high 20 kills but it was Lions sophomore Samuel Cueva (Swampscott, Mass.) that responded with 19 kills. The five-set match was the third time the Nighthawks and Lions went to a deciding set in the history of the series.
Only five days later, the Nighthawks and Lions met again, but with the Lions finishing the Nighthawks in straight sets, 3-0. It was Nighthawks freshman Pedro Juan De Jesus (East Hartford, Conn.) that led the offense with six kills while Kossoski went for seven kills for ENC.
For the final time in NECC history, it's the No. 4 ENC Lions and the No. 5 Newbury Nighthawks. Winner gets the top-seed in the NECC and No. 7 nationally-ranked Elms Blazers on Thursday in the semifinals. Video coverage of Tuesday's match begins at 6:30 p.m. with first serve set for 7:00 p.m.
We invite you to follow the action of the NECC Quarterfinal Match with the following links: