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Canisius survives St. Joe's for title

Canisius battled two opponents on Tuesday to win the Monsignor Martin Association volleyball title -- St. Joe's and its own complacency.

The Crusaders dropped the first two games in the best-of-five match before roaring back to win the next three and capture the title before an estimated 300 at D'Youville College.

"I would say we kind of came in unprepared, we were kind of over-confident," said Canisius senior Nate Fleming, who was a terror at the net the last three games. "We knew we were better than these guys. Their libero [Chris Gluc] was playing so well, we couldn't hit around that one kid. It was frustrating and they pulled it out both times."

St. Joe's came back from 20-15 down to win the first game, 25-21. It rallied from a 24-20 deficit to win the second game, 28-26. The Marauders lost twice to Canisius during the regular season in three-game sweeps, but early in this match the momentum was all theirs.

That would all change over the final three games as Canisius put together games of 25-11, 25-14 and 25-20. "I think we tightened up a little bit," said St. Joe's coach Mark Anzelone. "We came out loose, we came out energetic. We came out playing with nothing to lose. They got a little nervous and it showed. You can never play tight."

The title was the eighth in a row for Canisius, which ends 24-7. Junior left-hander Alex Mendez helped turn the match around, finishing with 25 kills and four blocks. The 6-7 Fleming finished with 21 kills and six blocks. Libero Michael Dillon had 22 digs.

St. Joe's quickly lost its grip on the match once Mendez found his stroke. Mendez can hang long enough in the air to find the open spots on the floor. He also made St. Joe's pay with well-placed kills down the line.

"All we said [after the second game] was we have to start playing like we usually do," said Mendez. "After we lost the second game I was starting to get a little worried. Our passing was weak in the first two games. But we had a good talk and came out strong the next game."

Canisius never trailed in the fifth and deciding game, but St. Joe's was able to stick around. St. Joe's got as close as 12-10 before Canisius slowly pulled away. Fleming and Mendez kept pounding balls at St. Joe's and it wasn't able to answer.

"Our seniors came back in the huddle after the second game and decided that they weren't going to play poorly anymore," said Canisius coach Tom Weislo. "They were going to finish out the year with another victory. They refused to lose."


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