By Joe Arruda
Fans of the Springfield College men’s volleyball team brought out the mops after Brennen Brandow completed a sweep of rival New Paltz with an exclamation point kill. The Pride, ranked No. 1 in the nation, dominated No. 7 SUNY New Paltz on Wednesday, beating the Hawks 25-17, 25-15, 25-17.
The rivalry, which began years ago, was reinvigorated when the Hawks defeated Springfield in the 2019 NCAA Semifinals. The following year, when New Paltz visited Blake Arena for the opening match of the 2020 Morgan Classic, it was packed. Fans, all wearing white, were on their feet for the majority of the match as Springfield won in five sets.
Wednesday was the first time the two teams played since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Not as many fans filled the bleachers and they wore all black this time, but the Springfield players on the court were almost exactly the same.
Early in the first set, Chris Parker set the tone.
The fifth-year middle blocker remembered everything from preparation: New Paltz liked to set the middle. Parker was ready, he leaped into the air, arms straight up, and acted as a wall, sending the ball straight down onto the Hawks’ side of the court. Then on the very next rally, he did it again and the emotion exploded. Parker turned to the bench with the chorus of the crowd behind him and flexed with a roar as the scoreboard reflected a 6-2 lead for the Pride.
“I’ve been having trouble fronting the middle all year,” Parker said. “So whenever I get a block in the middle I get extra happy.”
Parker finished with two solo blocks and two block assists. He also tallied six kills on eight attempts from the blocker position.
Several points later, Brandow launched a missile on a direct path into the chest of New Paltz libero Dan LaRosa that could have been heard from International Hall on the opposite end of campus to give the Pride a 23-16 lead in the set. The sound of the ball exploding into his chest reverberated throughout Blake Arena and elicited a loud cheer from the crowd.
Riding the momentum from the first set into the second, Jarrett Anderson and Parker collected a pair of blocks that gave the Pride an early 16-4 lead. Springfield won set two on a New Paltz serve into the net – the same way the first set concluded. Springfield’s dominance continued through the third set as Brandow continued to add on to his match-high 11 kills with a .625 hitting clip.
“It’s a rivalry that’s been around for awhile so it’s extra sweet to beat them, but it’s just another team,” Parker said.
Brandow completes the sweep! Springfield wins set three, 25-17, and downs No. 7 New Paltz 3-0! pic.twitter.com/IczJ06k1oI
— Joe Arruda (@joearruda9) March 30, 2022
“As April comes around, as we make our way towards the end of the season, there’s a lot of expectations,” Parker said. “We’ve been No. 1 all year, over the past couple years we’ve been No. 1, so there’s a lot of pressure on us and we try to not think about that. We just try to be as excited as we can that we get to play volleyball with our team, with our family.”
Wednesday’s sweep marked Springfield’s 17th straight-set victory this season and sixth in a row as the Pride improved to 23-1. With just three matches remaining on the regular season schedule, the Pride will travel to MIT and Nichols April 1 and 3, respectively, before capping the season in Blake with a match against Division I Sacred Heart on Wednesday, April 6.
“We need to just keep focusing on what we need to do at practice. Keep focusing on our culture – not being selfish, giving as much as we can and staying positive,” Parker said.
“Not focusing on the product, just focus focusing on the process. And, you know, the products will come with it.”
Photos by Michael Hoyt/The Student