By Sam Leventhal
Serving is the only part of a volleyball game that one can control. Even though they have struggled from behind the service line this year, the Springfield College Pride have managed to snatch the No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
From the beginning of January through April, the Pride have been recognized as the best Division III men’s volleyball team, holding firm atop the AVCA rankings. Springfield, who finished the regular season with a record of 26-2, leads the nation in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, and is second in win percentage. The Pride were defeated by National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school Hope International to open up the season. From there, Springfield boasted a 25-game win streak until they were defeated by MIT. The Pride had only dropped four sets across that span.
MIT, who missed a tournament berth in the 2017 campaign, capitalized on the 29 total service errors that were committed by the Pride. On the season, Springfield totals 475 service errors, which is the sixth most in the nation, but the Pride tend to focus on the parts of their game that propel their known successes.
“We focus more on what we can do, rather than what we can’t,” head coach Charlie Sullivan said.
Regardless of this figure, which would appear to bring down their game, the Pride have been able to stay afloat in the other aspects of their game. The nation’s No. 1 leads Division III with a .419 hitting percentage, .110 opponent hitting percentage, and are second to last in attack errors with 281.
Heading into the tournament, the Pride have a first round bye and will play Hunter in the quarterfinals.
For a team that is all too familiar with this playoff territory, the Pride know exactly what the top seed means.
“We play the early game on Friday,” senior Trevor Mattson said. Mattson, along with Sean Zuvich, Luis Garcia Rubio, Luis Vega, and Shaun Ermi have all been in this spotlight, as they won a ring in 2014 against Juniata as freshmen.
Since that 2014 season, the Pride have made it to the championship twice and lost both of those appearances to Stevens and SUNY New Paltz. Although Stevens was not a name on the Pride’s schedule this season, New Paltz was. Springfield managed to take down New Paltz in both matchups this season; 3-1 and 3-0.
To finish the 2017 campaign and for the seniors to have their story finish in a full circle, the Pride will need to complete the difficult task of winning three consecutive matches in a playoff setting. However, they will have all of the Springfield faithful on their side as the tournament is set to come to Blake Arena on April 28, 29 and 30.
Zuvich said, “Any person who says Disneyland is the happiest place on earth must’ve never played volleyball in the Mecca.”