By Sam Leventhal
Staff Writer/Photo Editor
The Morgan Classic returned to the Mecca on Saturday night where head coach Charlie Sullivan and Co. held the title at home for the second straight season.
In front of a rowdy, 800 plus spectators, the Pride completed a clean sweep of the Vassar College Brewers – who never held a lead in the contest – by scores of 25-13, 25-13, 25-19. With the win, Springfield advances to an 8-1 record in their 2017 campaign.
“I listen to the crowd after every play and try to embrace them and get them into my game,” Luis Vega said. “It increases my vertical, I would say.”
The Pride played with extreme efficiency against a tough Vassar squad; they held the Brewers to a zero hitting percentage on the night and a solid .388 clip of their own.
Springfield flew right out of the gates capturing the first two kills of the match. A kill attempt by Vega that flew out of bounds would give Vassar one point, but he would redeem himself on the next play and return possession back to Springfield. It was not long before the powerful, line-drive serves of Vega were behind the line. They would prove to be too strong for the Brewers who conceded two points in this span, one by ace, and forcing themselves to burn a timeout with Springfield up 8-2.
The Pride would put together a five-point run that finished with a kill from sophomore Kyle Jasuta to make the score at 24-11. Vassar would add two more points to their score, but a service error by Christian Lizana put Springfield up 1-0 at the switch.
Later in the set, the Pride began set two with a wonderfully placed kill from Ricardo Padilla Ayala that fell just short of the line. From then on, the Pride would make a run only allowing two Brewer points to their eight. Included in those eight points was another kill from the hot hand of Trevor Mattson, who finished the night with nine kills at a .467 clip, and two service aces from Luis Garcia Rubio, forcing Vassar into another timeout.
The Brewers would only score five more points to Springfield’s 11 before calling another timeout.
Out of the break, Vassar’s Zechariah Lee would establish a two-point service run before Padilla Ayala sent a kill right at the feet of the Vassar defender. The Brewers would go on to score four more points in the set before a hit out of bounds gave the Pride a set two victory.
The Brewers began to beat themselves to start the final set, giving up the first three points all to service errors.
Tucker Evans started the roll for the Pride when he nailed an ace to put the score at 4-1. But a few errors from the Pride and kills from Vassar’s Quinn Rutledge and Matthew Knigge brought the set back even. It didn’t take the Pride long at all before they commanded their lead once again on kills from Mattson and Jasuta.
The two teams would begin to trade points until Vega was back on the score sheet again with another two kills. Finally, another kill from Padilla Ayala on an assist from Luis Garcia Rubio capped the night as Springfield completed the three-set victory, 25-19.
“We were taking advantage of a lot of spaces and putting the ball up and letting our offense produce,” Vega added. “I think we passed well and that was a big key.”
Awarded MVP of the tournament with an astounding performance of 29 kills over a two-game span was Vega. Also, recognized for their efforts were Garcia Rubio and Jasuta as they were named to the All-Tournament team.
“Kyle, in the middle, had a big assignment with the Vassar middles; they’re so active and so effective. And Luis had a big assignment because of the same token, they’re good blockers too,” Sullivan said. “I thought those guys did exceptional just controlling things that they could control.”
With the trophy still in house, the Pride return to Blake Arena on Saturday, Feb. 11 to face SUNY Poly at 1pm.