By Joe Arruda
SPRINGFIELD — Entering the season ranked no. 1 in the nation, the much anticipated home opener for the back-to-back national champions did not disappoint. The Springfield College men’s volleyball team dominated Regis College in all aspects of the game, leading to three straight set victories in just over an hour on Tuesday, 3-0.
After an exhilarating 25-14 win in the first set, Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares showed off his skill from behind the service line to carry the Pride to an early 4-0 lead in the second set. Springfield then slowed down their attack and Regis was able to capitalize and show signs of a fight as they cut their deficit to 7-6..
The visitors boasted wide smiles on and off the court, expressing a burst of hope as they were within one point of the defending champions. Those smiles did not last much longer.
Springfield re-gained a comfortable lead thanks to another excellent performance behind the service line from Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares, coupled with efficient hitting from senior Mike Neary.
Neary, one of several players asked to switch positions, showed off what he can do in the first two sets before the starters were given a rest in the third. Neary finished with six kills on seven attempts for a hitting percentage of .857.
“There is a learning curve to [switching positions]. I’ve hit a lot on beach, so hitting is something I’m still familiar with. It’s a good switch up, I like it,” Neary said post game.
The team posted a combined hitting percentage of .590, making the game not only fun to watch for all in attendance, but impressing the coaches as well.
“Our guys did a good job,” Springfield head coach Charlie Sullivan reflected. “Any time we hit those numbers, no matter who’s on the other side, it’s a good night.”
The Springfield starters took their place on the sidelines for the third set as Sullivan utilized the opportunity to provide the many new additions to the roster with some time on the floor.
The depth of the program was highlighted early in that third set, as Springfield jumped out to a 10-3 lead. Freshman Astin Sesoko led the second wave from behind the serving line. He also added two kills on two attempts to help secure the victory.
“Everyone’s getting so much better in our program and our team’s working really hard,” said Sullivan. “That time on the floor, in the uniform is invaluable. To get that under the belt and that taste is really going to help them in the future”
As the Pride are welcomed back to Blake Arena and the season gets into full swing, the players are just as excited as the fans.
“It feels great to be here, back in [Blake Arena], last run, senior year. It feels awesome,” said Neary.
Springfield will host the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic this weekend. The Pride open up the tournament with a game against Marymount (Va.) at 6:00 p.m. in Blake Arena.
Featured photo courtesy of Sam Leventhal