Springfield, Mass. - February 5, 2016 - Led by the duo of Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico), the Springfield College men's volleyball team downed NYU in four sets on Friday evening in the Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic in Blake Arena.
The Pride won by the set scores of 24-26, 25-18, 25-19, 25-16 and marked the fourth-straight year that the Pride has reached the championship match of the Classic, which is regarded as the premier men's collegiate tournament on the East Coast. With the win, Springfield will play Harvard in a rematch of last year's Morgan Classic Championship, which Harvard won in four sets. The two teams will play on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Blake Arena.
Springfield, which is again ranked the top-ranked Division III team in the country according to the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Coaches Poll, improves to 9-1 on the season, 7-0 against Division III teams. NYU, ranked 8th in the nation this week, drops to 3-3.
On the offensive side of the ball, Padilla Ayala totaled 17 kills at a .696 clip, while Vega added 15 kills hitting .591, and each registered three blocks and pair of aces as well. Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) racked up 48 assists in leading Springfield to a .442 hitting percentage, Greg Woods (Middletown, Conn.) posted 14 kills, seven digs, and four blocks, and both Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) and Julian Welsh-White (Collingswood, N.J.) tallied a match-high five blocks.
For NYU, three players total double figures in the kill column as the squad hit .293 in the loss. Nick Benson tallied 13 kills, Phil Bueno chipped in 11, and Chase Corbett added 11, while Derrick Chiu handed out 38 assists.
Springfield opened the match with three-straight hitting errors and head coach Charlie Sullivan burned his first timeout of the night after the Pride dug itself a 4-0 deficit. The Pride would battle within 9-6 after back-to-back Violet hitting errors, only to have the visitors put together a 6-2 push to force the Pride into its second timeout of the frame trailing 15-8. The Pride would battle all the way back to even things at 24-all after a backrow kill by Padilla Ayala capped off a long rally, only to have the Violets score the final two points to pick up the 26-24 win. Padilla Ayala was dynamic for the Pride in the set, registering kills on all seven of his swings.
A kill off the block by Vega evened things at 8-8 to begin the second set and the Pride would take its first lead of the match as a Violet attack error made it 12-11. Behind the play of Vega and Padilla Ayala, the Pride would seize control of the frame with a 7-2 push to earn a 19-13 lead. The Violets would get as close as 21-17, but a 3-0 burst capped off by a huge block from Welsh-White, Garcia Rubio, and Vega gave the Pride set point. A service error closed out the 25-18 win and Springfield's offense was sensational in the frame, producing a .588 clip with Vega leading the way with four kills.
Springfield jumped out to a 5-2 lead to begin the third set as Irizarry Feliciano and Garcia Rubio delivered a big block. After NYU climbed with 14-13, Springfield put together a 7-2 run as back-to-back blocks put the home crowd on its feed with the Pride leading 21-15. Springfield hit at a .400 clip in the frame and eased to a 25-19 win.
In the fourth, Padilla Ayala buried a kill following a wild rally to give the hosts an 8-6 lead and Springfield forced NYU in a timeout after Vega blasted a kill at 12-9. The visitors would get as close as 13-11, but another 4-1 surge, with Vega hammering a backrow kill, gave Springfield a 17-12 lead. The crowd of over 1,200 fans rose to their feet after Eric Johnson (Tustin, Calif.) delivered back-to-back aces to complete the 25-16 victory. The hosts totaled 18 kills at a .538 percentage in the final set, with Vega leading the charge with seven kills.
Harvard 3, Puerto Rico Mayaguez 1
Led by a match-high 15 kills from Branden Clemens (Carmel, Ind.), the Harvard University men's volleyball program picked up a four-set win over the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez in the opening match of the Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic on Friday evening in Blake Arena.