By Joe Arruda
Blake Arena filled twice over the weekend for the premiere Division III men’s volleyball showcase in the region, the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic. The event, named after William G. Morgan featured four of the best D-III programs in the country – headlined by No. 1 Springfield College which won the event for the sixth straight time in 2022.
“It’s a great time,” Springfield head coach Charlie Sullivan said. “It just has so much history, we’re always so happy to collaborate with the Hall of Fame to make it special and it just benefits our guys so it was good for them to have this. This advantage is normalcy as we’ve been missing for so long.”
Morgan invented the game of volleyball at the Holyoke YMCA, just over 20 minutes away from Springfield’s campus, in 1895. It was first called “Mintonette” before the first public exhibition in Judd Gymnasia at Springfield College when the now-global sport was renamed “Volley Ball.”
The first year of the Morgan Classic was in 1988 before the event found its new home at Springfield College in 1990. Since its beginnings, the only year without the annual tournament was in 2021, when it fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Springfield brought the annual classic back with a thrilling match against No. 3 Vassar on Friday, Feb. 4.
“We’re having fun out there, we have a good group and it just shows,” graduate student Johjan Mussa Robles said. “We’re working a lot, we’re working a lot on skill, but this core and the energy and the cohesion that we have is unmatchable.”
Down two sets to one entering the fourth set with a blacked-out crowd doing all they could to will the Pride some momentum, Springfield earned it in the fourth. With the set tied at 13, the Pride rattled off four straight points after kills from Nate Reynolds and Brennen Brandow along with a pair of Vassar attack errors.
There was a clear momentum shift inside Blake Arena which carried Springfield to a 25-18 win in set four, and continued to carry the Pride to a dominant 15-5 showing in the final frame.
Jubilation filled the gym at the conclusion of the match, and that momentum carried over into the Championship Game the next day, when the Pride swept Endicott to win the tournament.
The weekend was filled with multiple standout performances from junior Jarrett Anderson, a two-time First Team All-American and the 2020 AVCA Newcomer of the Year. Anderson tallied 26 kills while hitting over .400 and added 11 aces over the two tournament matches.
“It’s funny how when he came in here, I was a senior and I’m still here. We’re still playing together and he brings the energy. He’s quiet, but he just brings the energy in his own way and we just love him,” Mussa Robles said. “He’s just a great volleyball player and he’s evolved as a player and a human being. We just love him and love having him around.”
The Morgan Classic victory solidifies the Pride their spot at No. 1 in the national AVCA Division III rankings for at least another week. Undefeated at 7-0 with two wins over top-five opponents under their belt as of Wednesday, Feb. 10, Springfield will fill the Mecca once again this weekend for three matches highlighted by a heavyweight clash with No. 3 Stevens to open Saturday’s tri-match at 3 p.m.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics