By Joe Arruda
The No. 2 Springfield College men’s volleyball team (20-2) welcomed the Regals from California Lutheran University (11-9) to Blake Arena on Thursday night. In their first match after Spring Break, the Pride came out with strong team play that allowed them to rid themselves of the rust and come away with their 20th victory on the season.
In warmups, the home team was not wearing their usual maroon Springfield College Athletics shirts. Instead they donned a white shirt which read “Springfield Volleyball” on the front. On the back was the logo for Horizons for Homeless Children; an organization dedicated to giving homeless families access to critically needed services.
Thursdays win was for a larger purpose.
“Tom [Wollweber]’s brother passed away in January, and his dad is really involved in inner city people that have needs for shelter, homeless people,” said Springfield head coach Charlie Sullivan. “This (Horizons for Homeless Children) is one of the organizations that his dad deals with, and we just wanted to give recognition to them and what they’re doing, and support the people that don’t have what we have – the basic necessities.”
In honoring their teammate and his family, the men’s volleyball team raised money by selling t-shirts to assist the organization in serving over 1,600 homeless children each year.
“It was so amazing that we got to give back for this one. Tom helped us through a lot of the season so it’s great to finally get that chance to give back to him for this one game,” said graduate student Kyle Jasuta.
Despite coming away with the sweep, the Pride did have their own struggles in the first set.
“We called our timeout at 11-12 we were down, and we had given them 9 of their 12 points. It’s pretty typical rust after Spring Break,” Sullivan said.
Of the 56 total Cal Lutheran points, 20 were given to them on Springfield service errors and 16 on attack errors. The Pride’s offensive struggles were highlighted by their defensive success. They totaled 35 digs and 9 blocks, causing the Regals to tally just 18 kills on a .000 hitting percentage in the match.
None of those kills were monstrous. Springfield did an outstanding job of returning the Cal Lutheran hits, and rejecting them at the net.
“I thought we had a lot of errors, we didn’t play since before Spring Break and it’s to be expected that we’d have some rust. But we took all of their shots away, I don’t think they ever even pounded one on the floor,” Sullivan said. “I thought our defense was exceptional in terms of getting those stops.”
The majority of that rust was no where to be found after the Pride’s 25th point. The depth and team play for the Pride was on show as five different players tallied 4 kills or more. Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares led the offense to a .254 hitting percentage (which was dragged down by the first set struggles) on 27 assists.
Freshman Brennen Brandow had an outstanding performance in the second set from behind the service line as he smashed 2 consecutive service aces onto the back line, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Jasuta did what he could to maintain momentum with his swinging right hand pounding the red, white, and blue ball into the Blake Arena floor. Each of his 6 kills were destructive, fueling the energy of the crowd and his teammates.
“I love just hearing the fans after every time I hit and it just fuels me,” said Jasuta. “So every time I do it the first time, I hear the fans and I just wanna get right back out and do it again.”
Jasuta added 2 block assists, as well as 2 service aces; one which completed the sweep.
— Joe Arruda (@joearruda9) March 28, 2019
Senior Eli Irizarry Pares along with Brandow continued to be offensive threats for the Pride, both tallying 8 kills on the match. Senior Mike Neary also added 6.
The win came just hours after the NCAA announced their regional rankings which featured the Pride at No. 1 in the East Region. After the win, Springfield improved to 20-2 on the season with just six games remaining.
Springfield will return to Blake Arena on Saturday as they will host a tri-match between Hunter and No. 8 Endicott College. The Pride will face off against Hunter at 1:00, and Endicott at 5:00.
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics