Coming into Wednesday night’s match-up, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s men’s volleyball team was coming off an eight-game winning streak. Springfield put an end to that when the Engineers took to Blake Arena.
Though the Pride took the contest with a straight-set win of 26-24, 25-15 and 25-20, the Engineers proved to be a thorn in Springfield’s side throughout the night.
The Pride opened up the game early on, firing for five consecutive points to start the first set, but MIT kept close as the set wore on.
Senior blocker Jimmy O’Leary said that the Engineers knew where to put the ball, which caused some problems for the Pride.
“They were hitting smart shots,” O’Leary said. “We didn’t get a ton of blocks the whole match because they would hit around it, but we would pick it up with our defense.”
O’Leary teamed up with freshman right-side hitter Sean Zurvich and junior outside hitter Angel Perez on several occasions at the front of the net. The senior posted seven blocks on the night and amassed 12 kills.
Zuvich, who also had 12 kills, used his height at 6-foot-7 and his wingspan to keep the ball in play. While he often overpowered MIT players, he also knew when to take the pace off and lob the ball over the heads of opposing blockers.
But according to Springfield coach Charlie Sullivan, it was strong serving that made the biggest difference for the Pride overall.
“[MIT was] playing great,” Sullivan said, “but we had a good amount of focus today, which was nice. Our serve was very effective and took them out of their offense, which helped a lot.”
O’Leary agreed with his coach, saying that starting off points strong gave Springfield opportunities to win points.
“Our thing that was most improved was our serving,” O’Leary said. “Our serving kept them on their heels the whole match and we were able to take advantage of that. Serving tough on any team puts them on their heels, and we can neutralize anything they have going for them.”
While the Pride made three more service errors than MIT, Springfield more than doubled the Engineer’s three aces. Four of the home team’s seven aces came from sophomore Keaton Pieper.
As returning became more difficult for MIT, the away team often looked unbalanced, often scrambling for the ball and leaving empty spaces, which set Springfield up for easy kills.
And while the Engineers kept themselves alive deep in the game, never letting the Pride get more than a few points ahead, Zuvich said it was important for his team not to lose focus in the fast-paced environment.
“We were trying to stay as composed as possible after a mistake,” the freshman said. “We had to start every point new. Every point is a new game.”
The Pride have improved to 16-7, and have six wins in their past seven games. They will face Marymount at home on Monday.