With just one regular season game left, the Springfield College men’s volleyball team looks prime and ready for a run at their third straight National Championship.
The Pride rolled through the Springfield College Invitational, going 4-0 on the weekend while knocking off two top 10 teams in the process.
Springfield College (24-7) took down No. 7 Stevens Tech on Friday night in straight sets, 25-16, 26-24, 25-22.
“We love the month of April,” senior Ryan Lilley said. “It’s where we get better with our physical game, but also we can really focus on our mental game – just preparing to play tight games at the end of the season and coming together as a group.”
Luis Vega jump-started the Springfield offense with 21 kills, following a career-best 27 kills against Sacred Heart last week. Sean Zuvich added 14 kills while Keaton Pieper registered 44 assists.
In the opening set, Vega reeled off three-straight kills to put the Pride up 9-6. After the Ducks pulled within 13-11, Springfield pulled away on a 6-3 run before Zuvich and Vega closed out the set with back-to-back kills.
In the second set, Zuvich landed a game-tying kill to knot the score at 21, before Vega added a block and a kill of his own to give the Pride the 26-24 set victory.
The Ducks looked to avoid the sweep in the third, starting the set on a 4-1 run, before Springfield responded with a 5-0 run of their own, capped off by senior Jimmy O’Leary.
The Pride used a second 5-0 run to take a 15-10 lead before O’Leary tallied his 10th kill of the match to give Springfield the 25-22 match victory.
Springfield had little trouble with Endicott in the second game of a double-header, sweeping the Gulls 25-9, 25-12, 25-13.
Springfield’s Eric Johnson began the Pride onslaught by serving the first eight points, giving Springfield a 7-1 advantage. Vega added four kills in the first set, the final one capping the Pride’s 25-9 set win.
Once again, the Pride used a hot start to go up early on Endicott. Angel Perez tallied multiple kills to give the Pride a 9-2 lead. Jason Mascoe and Ryan Quesenberry combined for a block to finish the second set, 25-12.
Sean Peterson capped off a hot start for Springfield and landed a kill in the center of the court to give the Pride an early 11-5 edge. Jason Weeden and Eduardo McCormick tallied a pair of kills to help the Pride run away with a 25-13 victory.
On Saturday, the Pride picked up their 11th and 12th-straight victories, downing Marymount University and No. 9 Medaille College.
The Pride kicked off Saturday’s action with a sweep of Marymount, claiming 25-17, 25-12 and 25-13 victories.
Vega led the Pride early, grabbing two kills to give Springfield a 5-4 lead. Zuvich and O’Leary followed with kills of their own to extend the lead to 13-9. O’Leary sealed the set with a kill, handing the Pride a 25-17 victory.
Springfield went on a 6-0 run to start the second set, using two kills from Zuvich and an ace from Johnson. Peterson landed a powerful kill to cap the second set, 25-12.
The Pride had to rally from behind in the third set, using a 7-0 run to take a 10-5 lead. Ryan Malone iced the final set, capping a 4-0 Springfield run with the match-clinching kill.
Springfield took down their second top 10 team in as many days, sweeping Medaille on Saturday afternoon.
Vega, the two-time Sports Imports/AVCA Division III National Player of the Week, racked up 15 kills in the match as the Pride won by set scores of 25-14, 25-18 and 25-22.
Springfield got going early with a 10-3 lead behind a pair of Zuvich aces and an O’Leary kill. An attack error by Medaille set up a set-ending kill from Vega.
The Pride fell down 10-7 in the second set before a 4-0 run, sparked by a kill from O’Leary that led Springfield to a 12-10 lead.
Vega added two more kills late, handing the Pride a 25-18 set win.
In the third set, Medaille once again got up early, but back-to-back kills from Zuvich and Perez made it 5-4. Vega landed a cross-court kill to begin a 6-0 Springfield run before finishing off the match with a kill down the line.
The weekend marked Senior Weekend for Springfield College, as Lilley, O’Leary and Nick Ferry were honored.
“It was a little bittersweet,” O’Leary said. We always come into every match with high hopes, but being as it’s my last one ever [at home], it’s a little sad for me.”
The Pride will travel to New Jersey to face NJIT, beginning the National Tournament in Huntingdon, Pa.
“It’s been an honor, an honor and a privilege [to play at Springfield College],” noted Lilley. “It’s a brotherhood that I’m lucky to be a part of. The opportunities that this college has given us is just incredible.”
Although the Pride will have to wait and see who they match up against in the National Tournament, there is a sense of confidence inside the locker room.
“We feel like we are in a good position, but we don’t have a choice on what we’re set up as,” said O’Leary. “Whoever we get set up with, we will do our best to win every match.”