The bleachers of Blake Arena were a loud, homogenous sea of white during Springfield’s men’s volleyball matchup with SUNY New Paltz, in the Division III National Championship game Sunday night. Pride supporters wore white clothing for the game, except for one special demographic located in the first couple of rows and off to the right side.
Springfield men’s volleyball alumni made the trek back to campus to support the team that they fought on for four years. One thing that stuck out to former player Angel Perez is how much the program has grown since his playing days.
“It’s amazing to see how we have more people here this year than we did my freshman year,” Perez said. “It’s great to see how the program has developed. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Springfield lost to SUNY New Paltz in last year’s national championship game, 3-1. That game was Greg Woods last as a member of the Pride. For him, this year’s win is total validation.
“I was telling some people after the game that this is kind of like a redemption tour,” Woods said. “Coach Sullivan has this great saying, ‘A mistake is not a mistake unless you fail to correct it.’ So this was validation. They took the time all year long and were able to use those experiences last year to lead to this moment.”
Former Springfield star Mike Pelletier is proud of the team on getting the win because of all they have been through the last few seasons.
“This is one of the most special weekends I have probably ever been apart of since I have graduated,” Pelletier said. “It was an awesome finish and I’m really proud of these guys. They have suffered a couple loses these last few years so I am really happy that today was a different ending.”
Head coach Charlie Sullivan was happy to see that so many former players and familiar faces made the trip out to support the team.
“I am so proud of those guys because of what they do now and how they live their lives,” Sullivan said.” It was really heartwarming to have so much support from all the way back in the days of old back when I was a graduate assistant in ‘95, ‘96 and ‘97.”
Volleyball alumni from five, ten and 15 years ago came to support the team on Sunday night. Woods believes the reason players still come back years after graduation really boils down to one thing.
“Its culture. That’s the one word I can use and that’s really what keeps us coming back,” Woods said. “We have such a strong connection to it. [Sullivan] sets out at the beginning of each year on the first day of fall ball, ‘This is how we do things in this program. Yes we have a championship pedigree. Don’t let it get to your head. We have to work for it.’ Then he outlines everything that has to be done behind it, and it makes you a better player.”