Coaching Memories: The Charlie Sullivan Era

Shawn McFarland
Staff Writer

 

 

 

Graphic by Nick Lovett
Graphic by Nick Lovett

Depending on who you ask, there are several ways to define success in sports. The simplest way can be summed up in one word: championships. From collegiate tournament victories to successful runs with Team USA, victories, and championships in particular, are things Charlie Sullivan is well acquainted with.

During his tenure as head coach of the men’s volleyball team at Springfield College, Sullivan coached a talented squad to quite a few wins, and the ever impressive three-peat, or three NCAA Division III National Championship victories in a row.

All three championship trophies (and a number of other awards) sit high on a shelf in Sullivan’s office, overlooking anyone who walks in. From current players to potential recruits, staring up at the impressive hardware inspires one to go out and win another championship.

With the task in mind that he would have to choose his most memorable game as a coach at Springfield College, Sullivan looks gazes at the three trophies.

“So I really have to pick just one?” he said with a laugh. Being asked to pick which of three national championship games is most memorable sounds like an impossible decision to make, but Sullivan seemed to believe that there was no more memorable game than where the dynasty began; the 2012 Division III National Championship victory against Carthage.

Throughout the regular season, Springfield was simply dominant. The team posted a 33-5 record, with an impeccable 17-0 home record. A 21-game winning streak was just one of the many highlights throughout the year as the team made their way to glory.

The match leading up to the national championship game seemed like a breeze. Springfield defeated Baruch 3-0 in the NCAA Quarterfinals, followed by a 3-0 victory over Hunter in the NCAA Semifinals.

The NCAA Championship game was set for Sunday, April 29th against Carthage in Blake Arena. The stands were packed from top to bottom with excited Springfield fans.

“Part of the reason that I would choose that game is because it had the most participation from our community,” Sullivan explained.

The public had followed the team more closely than ever, and Blake Arena was packed with over 2,000 people.

What made this game even more special was that it was the first year that the NCAA had sponsored a national championship for Men’s Volleyball in Division III. Previous national championships had been sponsored by private companies. Now with the NCAA involved, there was more funding, and subsequently more “bells and whistles” around every aspect of the game.

The match itself was more of the same for Springfield, pure dominance. “Our guys played exceptionally well,” Sullivan said. “Our national championship matchs are a result of everyone being on the same page and playing for the person next to them.”

From national media outlets to Springfield College student media, the amount of attention given to the game gave it an almost overwhelming feeling and a lifelong memory.

Unselfish play and strong teamwork helped lead the team to a victory that Sunday. Sometimes in sports, the most talented teams can be assembled, but without excellent chemistry, they can only get so far. Springfield was lucky to have both talent and chemistry throughout that season, and into the national championship game. “We hit one part of the match where it was a little questionable, but once we got over it, the game just flew from there.

Springfield’s offense was clicking on all cylinders, and their strong defense and blocking were able to neutralize some of Carthage’s best players. Springfield won 3-0, winning their matches 25-21, 25-23, 25-16.

After their victory, Springfield (donning their new championship attire) was presented with the trophy in front of an ecstatic Blake Arena, filled with fans screaming and cheering as the hardware was lifted into the air.

From a breathtaking introduction to the game with an American flag draped over the court, to a trophy ceremony at the end, the entire event was filled with impressive pageantry as Springfield rolled along to claim their first of three NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball National Championships.

Shawn McFarland can be reached at smcfarland2@springfieldcollege.edu

Men’s Volleyball Schedule

Saturday, January 24 vs. Emerson, 4 p.m.

Saturday, January 24 vs. Newbury, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, January 27 @ Emmanuel, 8 p.m.

Saturday, January 31

vs. Vassar, 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, January 31 vs. Elms, 8 p.m.

Saturday, February 7 vs. Stevenson @ Kean University, 3 p.m.

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