By Sam Leventhal
April volleyball has officially begun in Springfield as the top ranked Pride took on the Rivier Raiders on Saturday afternoon and completed their 19th sweep of the 2017 campaign.
The 3-0 victory ended with scores of 25-15, 25-14, 25-16, and Springfield celebrated a convincing senior day victory in a match that was postponed due to inclement weather on Friday night.
Each senior was honored prior to the midday match with their family and given a photo that culminated their play during their time at Springfield. The Pride’s seniors include Trevor Mattson, Luis Vega, Luis Garcia Rubio, Sean Zuvich, Jason Weedon, and Shaun Ermi.
“It’s a great class,” head coach Charlie Sullivan said. “They’ve represented the program really well in their four years here. I was very happy to see that they were successful today.”
On their special day, the seniors came out in full force, headlined by the performance of Vega. Vega, who leads the nation in hitting percentage at .470, finished the day with 13 kills hitting at a .706 clip, two aces, and three block assists. He is also fourth in the country in points per set and fifth in kills per set.
The Pride held the Raiders to a .000 hitting percentage on the day and finished with a .546 clip of their own.
Set one began with Rivier’s Tyler Blank back to serve. As the ball flew over the net, junior Ricardo Padilla Ayala realized he wasn’t in correct position and kicked the ball back up into the air, allowing the Pride to return possession. The Raiders were then denied by Joseth Irizarry and Padilla Ayala, to give Springfield the first point of the match. Later in the set, following a service error from Vega, the Pride began to run away from the competition on an 8-1 run fueled by setter Garcia Rubio. In the span, the senior setter managed to register three assists and two blocks. To end the frame, Garcia Rubio and Rodriguez registered another block assist, denying Ian Wolski and put the Pride up 1-0. Springfield held Rivier to a -.238 hitting percentage in the opening set and that momentum would carry over into set two.
Early in set two, Rivier’s Matt Heckler added back-to-back aces to the score sheet giving the Raiders their largest lead of the contest. Following this service stint, the Pride quickly regained control with a 9-1 surge that came from the serving hinges of Sergio Figueroa Velez and Garcia Rubio. This momentum proved too much for the Raiders to handle as the Pride coasted to a 25-14, set two victory at an efficient .696 clip.
To begin the third, Springfield opened with a 5-1 run and added another 5-1 streak at a 14-10 score line. Fittingly, the day was completed at the hands of a senior, Zuvich, as the Pride took set three 25-16.
With the victory, Springfield improves to 24-1 on the season and prepares for another 2016 championship rematch against New Paltz St. Hawks on April 5 at 6pm in Blake Arena. The two teams faced earlier this season in N.Y. and the Pride got their revenge with a 3-1 victory. The Hawks are now 21-4 on the season and No. 2 in the AVCA poll.
Springfield are currently the favorites to win the title and according to Sullivan, they haven’t even reached peak performance.
“We’re preparing to be great,” Sullivan added. “We know we can get better, we haven’t hit out potential yet.”