By Joe Arruda
Brennen Brandow locked eyes with setter Matt Lilley as Springfield held control of the match Wednesday against Sacred Heart University. Lilley did his thing, popping a perfect ball that Brandow could demolish over the net. After colliding with the Sacred Heart blockers, the ball fell onto the visiting side of the court and completed Springfield’s ninth consecutive win via sweep (25-22, 25-21, 25-18).
The Division III Conference Championships are this coming weekend, so Springfield – which competes independent, without a conference – scheduled Wednesday’s contest against the Pioneers, who compete at the D-I level.
Nonetheless, Springfield’s common dominance continued as they held onto a slim lead for most of the evening.
With the win, the top-ranked Pride finished the regular season with a record of 26-1, their only loss coming on the road at unranked Lasell. Since the start of the season, the goal has been to play “championship-level volleyball” – as head coach Charlie Sullivan often restates. Springfield expects to get its shot at the 2022 NCAA Tournament when the bracket is announced at Monday’s selection show.
“We developed how we wanted to (from the start of the season),” Brandow said. “We haven’t gotten anywhere yet from where our mindset has been, we have a lot to accomplish. This is exactly what we’ve been playing for all season. We know what caliber type of team we could be, and we’re shooting for that.”
Before that, Springfield will continue working in practice.
“We need to get better at just our overall momentum,” Sullivan said. “For the game we can handle our momentum a little better. It’s important in April, we can’t take a minute off.”
Springfield’s proverbial foot was on the gas pedal from the start of the match when the Pride opened set one with three straight kills from three different hitters, to the end when Brandow’s kill completed a comeback in set three. The Pride dominated around the net, out-blocking the Pioneers, 4-1 in the match as they held the opponent to a small .134 hitting clip.
FINAL — Springfield finishes the season at 26-1 with a sweep of D-I Sacred Heart on Brennen Brandow’s 14th kill of the match. pic.twitter.com/CRuTN9EKjU
— Joe Arruda (@joearruda9) April 6, 2022
“Sacred Heart is a very tough team, D-I, they come in firing,” Brandow said. “We took smart shots out there and played good volleyball.”
Brandow hit at a .364 clip to tie Jarrett Anderson for a match-high 13 kills. Anderson hit .611 for the match to boost Springfield to a .538 clip as a team. Lilley directed the offense with 37 assists and tallied two of the team’s five aces from behind the service line.
Springfield has lost just one set since its only loss of the season to Lasell on March 1, and has won 13 straight matches.
“We’re super excited, I feel like every team’s excited, here we’re just going to see where the NCAA puts all the teams and hopefully we get a shot to go prove ourselves,” Brandow said.
Springfield was ranked in the top spot of the AVCA National Coaches Poll for almost the entire season, and was ranked No. 1 in the region in the final NCAA Division III Regional Rankings that came out earlier on Wednesday.
Photo by Michael Hoyt/The Student