By Daniela Detore
“We have a tall task ahead [of us],” Stevens Institute of Technology assistant coach Amable Martinez’s statement after a 3-1 win on Friday April 28 over the Dominican University Stars.
The Ducks advanced to the semi-finals where they met No.1 Springfield College.
“I wanted to prove myself [to Stevens],” senior Sean Zuvich said in regards to facing Steven’s after the 2015 upset in the National Championship.
Springfield entered the match with redemption. Dropping the match to Stevens three sets to none, the Pride was faced with an opportunity to return to the national stage. However, they could not have done it without confronting their past, to get to their future.
The game was off to a thunderous start. A ball passed too tight to the next by the Springfield’s serve receive put Luis Garcia Rubio up against Steven’s Thomas Burrell in a dual above the net. Going head to head, Garcia Rubio turned, and with his hands high above the net, Burrell swung right into the patient hands of setter Luis Garcia Rubio.
It was a tug of war match between the Pride and the Ducks. Set one was tied up at 13-13 before Tucker Evans stepped behind the line. He recorded five aces on the night, the first being the go ahead point for the Pride in set one.
He stepped back to serve to secure their lead over Stevens, Tucker Evans delivers once more. Unable to manage the ball the Stevens serve receive passes it tight to the ceiling of Blake Arena. The ball returning back down to the court where the Steven’s Ducks await it, the ball finds itself tight on the net once more. AVCA DIII National Player of the year, Luis Vega, handles the ball and punishes it down for emphasis on their dominance.
Stevens remains calm throughout the remainder of set one, falling just short to the Pride after a 25-21 loss. The second set could have been anyones game.
Set two opens up in a dual, Stevens wanting to force this game to five sets. The Ducks earned the first point off of a kill by David Lehman and is answered by the Prides Ricardo Padilla’s cross court attack. Stevens remained close behind the Prides lead, after hitting .304 in the first set Stevens was pushing the authority of Springfield College.
“We respect the challenges they bring,” head coach Charlie Sullivan said in respect to Stevens Institute of Technology. Stevens continued to swing until Springfield proved, they can swing harder.
Luis Garcia Rubio collected 37 assist on the match, the most enforcing one coming from middle blocker Jonathan Rodriguez Lopez.
The flawless serve receive of Springfield College delivered to Garcia Rubio, and habitually he put the ball up for his middle to go earn. Rodriguez Lopez from the zone 1 and 2 sideline begins his approach out of the peripheral of his senior setter. Jumping high above the block the ball awaits him. Blistering a hole in the ten-foot-line, the crowd wanted more.
Set two was closed out with an astonishing .875 hitting clip produced by the Pride. Topping Stevens two sets to none, they captured the second in a Springfield College styled fashion, leaving no hope in the 25-14 win.
Unable to find their rhythm in set three, Sullivan calls a timeout as the Pride finds themselves at a deficit of two, 8-6.
“Be you on the court,” were the words of Eli Irizarry Pares, in regards to the difference to in set three.
The Pride return to the court after their brief timeout, walking across the sport court laid down they looked to the 1300 faithfuls in the stands. The crowd rises to their feet in encouragement to finish in three.
“You can see how many people believe in you,” Sean Zuvich heartwarmingly reflected on.
A game tied at 20 left Springfield with no other option, finish it. Luis Vega produces two back to back kills propelling the Pride to a leading score of 22-20. Kyle Jasuta steps behind the service line and produces one of the eleven aces on the night for the Pride.
“We wanted to show we were going to go down hard and fighting,” said Gabe Shankweiler of Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Steven’s Ducks tie the game up after a conventional block on the Pride. Until Springfield answered back at 26-26 with their block. Stevens Patterson feeds hot hand Shankweiler on the outside and is shut down by Rodriguez Lopez and Garcia Rubio. The ball is kept alive by Ducks block coverage, Patterson reverses the flow to freshman opposite David Lehman. Swinging high the Duck is met by solo Ricardo Padilla Ayala, punishing the effort down to the floor.
Two consistent hitting errors by Stevens closes out set three for the Pride, 28-26. In a 3-0 sweep over the Stevens Institute of Technology, a rematch of the 2015 National Championship game, Springfield College returns to the championship game for the 8th straight year.
In anticipation for the championship match, the crowd with bad blood responded to the 3-0 victory for the Pride.
“We want New Paltz.”