By Chris Gionta
The 2022 Springfield men’s volleyball team came painfully close to the program’s 12th national title. After the Pride won 39 consecutive sets en route to the national championship game against Carthage, they dropped the match 3-1.
Getting back to that final game is already a challenge in itself, but the talent Springfield lost from a year ago will make it even more difficult. Brennen Brandow, Liam York, Chris Parker, Nate Reynolds, Matt Lilley and Johjan Mussa Robles all departed after last season, but the Pride remain strong.
“It’s a young team,” Springfield head coach Charlie Sullivan said. “There’s going to be a lot of learning, but we got a good group of guys.”
Springfield came into the 2023 season ranked No. 2 in the country by the NVA/AVCA polls despite the major roster turnover.
With the losses of Brandow, York, Parker, Reynolds, Lilley and Mussa Robles, Springfield is saying goodbye to four of its top five leaders in kills, its leader in assists and top two leaders in digs from the 2022 season. Brandow, Lilley and Mussa Robles were also honored as AVCA All-Americans.
“We’re looking for candidates all the time – those are hard roles to step into,” Sullivan said.
However, the Pride still has the AVCA Division III National Player of the Year in Jarrett Anderson. He was second on the team in kills,led the country in aces per set and also led Springfield in points. The Pride will look to him to lead the young squad.
“I think Jarrett [Anderson’s] leadership is probably going to be pivotal to our success,” Sullivan said.
In the Pride’s three contests thus far, Anderson has combined for a team-leading 36 kills, which included 22 in their 3-1 win over St. Joseph’s (L.I.). Behind him in kills is first-year Evan Costley, who also had double-digits in that column in the four-set win.
Springfield’s leader in digs so far is also a first-year in Braden Gonzales, as he looks to fill the hole Mussa Robles — a six-year leader of the program — left after last year.
Along with youth, the 2023 team comes in with an encouraging mindset that is necessary for the long season.
“We had a good freshman class come in,” Sullivan said. “Where we have most of our strength is our culture, and the attitudes of the guys are really positive. We’ve already seen a significant amount of growth.”
The Pride have won all three of the matches they have played so far, and have only dropped one of 10 total sets played. However, they have potentially their toughest test next on the schedule, when they face No. 3 Stevens on the road on Jan. 28. For a team largely made up of underclassmen, it will be an introduction to the extreme high level of volleyball that Springfield once again intends to play late in the year.
Photo: Springfield Athletics