The Springfield College men’s volleyball team is always challenged year in and year out by their opponents throughout the entire season.
Of course there are the championships that have paved the way to the Pride accomplishing three consecutive national titles currently running. But, if there is any slate of games that test the Pride almost to the championship level, it is indeed the Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic.
Entering the 28th year of one of the most competitive collegiate volleyball tournaments on the East coast, the Pride hosted premier talent.
With four teams participating, the nationally-ranked Harvard Crimson Tide fought past Concordia-Irvine in four sets on early Friday evening in order to reach the finals.
That left No. 8 ranked maroon and white with a matchup against No.12 Rivier Raiders. After losing the first set, the Pride were able to collect themselves and win three straight sets, resulting in the win (17-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-12).
In the first set, Springfield only distributed five kills, leaving plenty more opportunities for the Raiders to create their own offense.
“First game we weren’t aggressive enough,” said senior Angel Perez who finished with eight kills and five digs. “For the rest of the game we just tried to pick it up, stay aggressive and focus on the game plan we had and it went successful.”
Perez started off the aggressive play in the second set by earning his first kill of the game and following that up an ace.
Up until the middle of the 2nd set, it was nip and tuck until consecutive plays by Springfield set a spark in the right direction. Keaton Pieper and libero Matthew Peretto both made great diving plays to extend the volley, and then Ryan Malone finished off the play with a booming kill that put the lead at 13-11 and drove the Springfield crowd crazy. Malone finished with 12 kills as Pieper dished out 40 assists and Peretto contributed with 10 digs.
From the second set on, the Pride used their bench to their advantage as it didn’t matter who came onto the court; they made an immediate impact. A pair of freshmen in Ricardo Padilla and Joseth Irizarry had 12 and seven kills respectively.
Both Irizarry and Padilla provided kills on the outside in the third set that created more positive energy for the crowd and as well as the team.
Whether it was off the bench or the usual suspect, the Pride used their depth and balance in order to push through.
“When someone is struggling, someone else can step up,” said Pieper. “We have a pretty balanced attack which is awesome, makes my job easier.”
The Pride were pleased to not only come away with the win and advance to the semifinals but also compete in a tournament that features the best volleyball around.
“It’s a blessing. I feel blessed to be here with all these fans and just play the game I love,” said Perez. “It’s unbelievable, an amazing experience.”
Moving forward, Springfield faced Harvard in the Morgan Classic championship and unfortunately lost in four sets (23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 21-25). Malone and Pieper both earned spots on the All-tournament team.
Greg Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org