Gameday Central: Men's Volleyball Set To Compete In NCAA Division III Championship

Gameday Central: Men's Volleyball Set To Compete In NCAA Division III Championship

Springfield, Mass. – April 26, 2017 – The Springfield men's volleyball team (26-2) was selected to the 2016 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed and will take on Hunter in the national quarterfinals on Friday, April 28. The National Championship Tournament will be held on the campus of Springfield College from April 28-30.

Follow the Action
Friday, April 22 - 12:30 pm
No. 1 Springfield vs. No. 8 Hunter

Springfield vs. 2017 NCAA Field

Springfield College has faced seven of the 12 NCAA Tournament teams this season, going 10-0. Springfield swept Endicott on January 21, bested NYU, 3-1, on January 28, defeated Kean and Vassar at the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic in straight sets before toppling Vassar again on February 22, and swept Hunter at home on March 4. The Pride also defeated New Paltz and Wentworth both at home and on the road. 

Championship History
The Pride has won nine Division III titles, hoisting the Molten Invitational National Championship trophy six times 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2010, before capturing the first three NCAA Division III Championships.  The Pride swept Carthage in Blake Arena for the inaugural title in 2012 before sweeping host Nazareth in 2013 and host Juniata in 2014 for its third-straight crown.

Division III Supremacy
Since the NCAA began its sponsorship of the Division III Men's Volleyball National Championship in 2012, Charlie Sullivan and company has produced a 155-11 record against Division III opponents.

Since 2008, the Pride has played in eight of nine national championship games, including being victorious in five of them. Dating back to the implementation of the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball National Championship in 2012, the Pride won three titles in a row and finished as the national runner-up twice.  From 2003 to 2009, Juniata College had a similar run, making six out of seven national championship matches.

West Coast Openers
2017 marked the eighth-straight season that Springfield opened up its season on the West Coast. The Pride started the year with a five-set loss to Hope International, before rallying for a 3-1 victory over the Royals to complete the trip. 

Island Connection
This season, the Springfield College men's volleyball team has eight natives of Puerto Rico on the team. In addition to  Luis Garcia Rubio, Luis VegaJoseth Irizarry FelicianoRicardo Padilla AyalaJonathon Rodriguez and Eli Irizarry Pares, the Pride added Johjan Mussa Robles to the mix. The Pride's eight Puerto Ricans is the most among any team in that plays men's volleyball in the NCAA.

California Kids
The Springfield College men's volleyball team has established strong ties to the state of California, which are reflected in its roster. The Pride has a total of six Golden Staters, including three in this year's senior class. 

Sullivan Earns Bronze

Springfield College head men's volleyball coach Charlie Sullivan and the United States Men's Volleyball team rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat Russia to claim the Bronze Medal at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. Sullivan was a member of the coaching staff and served as a scout coach throughout the competition.

The U.S. came back from an 0-2 deficit to beat Russia, 23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-13 at Maracanazinho arena. Despite losses to Canada and Italy, the United States picked up critical wins against eventual gold-medalists Brazil, France, and Mexico in pool play, and later bested Poland in the quarterfinals to reach the medal rounds.  After a five-set loss to the Italians, Team USA put together a remarkable comeback against Russia to claim the fifth men's volleyball medal for the U.S. Men in the Olympic Games.

This came after Sullivan helped lead the 2015 U.S. Men's National Team to the FIVB World Cup Title. It was the first time the U.S. Men have won the World Cup since 1985 and the first time ever that they have qualified for the Olympics at the World Cup.

Regulars at the NCAA's
Since the inception of the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship in 2012, only two schools have appeared in each of the first six championships. Springfield, which was the top seed in 2012, 2013, and 2014 and the No. 2 seed in 2014, 2015, and 2016, has been joined by Kean as the only other six-time participant.

Summer Trip For the Ages
For two weeks in July of 2013, 17 members of the Springfield College community represented Team USA as the men's volleyball program competed at the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia. Fresh of its second-straight NCAA Division III National Championship, the Pride changed their Maroon and White uniforms for the Red, White, and Blue as they competed against Australia, Estonia, Belarus, Russia, Korea, Hong Kong, China, Chile, and Macau on the international stage.  

All-American Status
Seniors Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) and Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico), and junior Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) earned a first-team accolades, while Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) were named to the AVCA All-America Second Team.  

As a program, Springfield College has had 24 student-athletes garner AVCA All-America recognition a total of 47 times, including 31 first-team selections. No other Division III program in the country has received more AVCA All-American selections than the Pride's 47 honorees. Springfield has had at least two AVCA First-Team All-America selections in each of the past eight seasons.

After earning first-team recognition in 2014 and 2016, Vega had a dominant year on the pin for the Pride. The outside hitter currently ranks second in the country with a .463 hitting percentage and is fifth nationally in both kills per set (4.21) and points per set (4.95).  One of only three Springfield College men's volleyball students to earn three AVCA All-America First Team honors (Cal Palumbo '11), Vega has also posted 121 digs, 37 blocks, and 36 aces this year. 

Garcia Rubio has directed Springfield to the top offense in all of college men's volleyball, as the Pride have recorded a .419 hitting percentage.  The Business Management major ranks second in the country with 10.62 assists per set and has chipped in 80 digs, 45 blocks, and 19 aces.  Earning the first team honor for the second-straight year, Garcia Rubio became just the seventh student-athlete in program history to repeat the first-team national honor.

Padilla Ayala had another standout season for Springfield, registering 188 kills at a .368 clip, to go along with 108 digs and 36 blocks.  The Business Management major leads the team with 44 aces, and ranks ninth in the country in aces per set (.56). A three-time AVCA All-America selection, Padilla Ayala is one of only four Springfield College men's volleyball players to earn the national recognition three times.

In his second season at libero for the Pride, Irizarry Pares leads the team with 173 digs, averaging 2.44 per set.  Majoring in Health Care Management, the sophomore also owns a serve reception percentage of .965 this season and becomes just the third libero in program history to earn AVCA All-America honors.

Jasuta earned his first-ever national honor following a sophomore campaign in which he hit .536 out of the middle while totaling 114 kills.  The Accounting and Finance major has posted 51 blocks and keyed a Pride defense that leads the country in opponent's hitting percentage (.110).  He is now the eighth middle to have played at Springfield and be tabbed AVCA All-America. 

Against The 2017 Field

Kean
All Time Record: 6-1
Last Meeting: On February 3, 2017

In its first home match of the 2017 campaign, the Springfield College men's volleyball team bested Kean in straight sets, 25-22, 25-9, 25-19, to advance to the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic Championship.  Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) was outstanding for the Pride in the victory, producing 17 kills at a remarkable .652 clip to go along with three aces. Sergio Figueroa Velez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) led all players with five aces, and Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) totaled 29 assists and five digs in leading Springfield to a .362 hitting percentage on the night.

Hunter
All Time Record: 9-0 
Last Meeting: On February 3, 2017

Springfield put together the single-best three-set hitting percentage in all of college men's volleyball so far this year, hitting at a .692 clip with 39 kills on 52 attempts with just three errors. Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) totaled 34 assists while Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) led the Pride with 12 kills, hitting .688. Trevor Mattson (Redlands, Calif.) had nine kills on 12 errorless attempts, and Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) registered a career-best six blocks in leading the Pride's defensive efforts which held Hunter to a -.015 hitting percentage on the night.  

SUNY New Paltz
All-Time Record: 46-5
Last Meeting: April 5, 2017

In a rematch of last year's NCAA Division III National Championship, the Springfield College men's volleyball team swept visiting New Paltz by scores of 28-26, 25-21, 25-14. Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) directed Springfield's offense to a .424 hitting percentage as he handed out 29 assists in the win.  Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) totaled 11 kills, hitting .588, while Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) notched 10 kills on 17 errorless attempts.  Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) registered a match-best three blocks, and Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) recorded a match-high six digs. 

Wentworth
All-Time Record: 16-1
Last Meeting: March 4, 2017

In a three-set victory over Wentworth, Springfield was led by Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico), who guided the Pride to a .409 hitting percentage as he handed out 32 helpers to go along with four digs and three blocks.  Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) was dominant on the pin, totaling 15 kills at a .571 clip, while Trevor Mattson (Redlands, Calif.) chipped in 11 kills of his own.  Jonathan Rodriguez Lopez (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) finished with a match-high five blocks and Tucker Evans (Midlothian, Va.) posted three of the Pride's eight aces. 

Dominican
All-Time Record: 1-0
Last Meeting: March 7, 2015

In the first ever meeting between the two schools, the Springfield College men's volleyball team cruised past Dominican in straight sets. The Pride won by set scores of 25-17, 25-17, 25-23, as Greg Woods (Middletown, Conn.) registered a match-high 13 kills at a .385 clip to go along with five digs, four blocks, and three aces.  Keaton Pieper (Dallas, Texas) was credited with 31 assists in leading Springfield to a .343 hitting percentage and Jason Mascoe (Uniondale, N.Y.) added four kills and four blocks.  Additionally, both Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Angel Perez (Naranjito, Puerto Rico) posted six kills apiece. 

Vassar
All-Time Record: 50-2
Last Meeting: February 22, 2017

In their second showdown of the season, the Pride were once again victorious over Vassar College in straight-sets. Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) totalled a match-high 14 kills at a .571 clip.  Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) handed out 36 assists in leading the Pride to a .398 hitting percentage, while Trevor Mattson (Redlands, Calif.) chipped in 10 kills of his own.  Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) was credited with 10 digs, and both Garcia Rubio and Jonathan Rodriguez Lopez (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) paced the Pride with three blocks apiece.

Stevens Tech
All-Time Record: 5-1
Last Meeting: April 26, 2015

The Springfield College men's volleyball team was defeated in the NCAA Division III National Championship match in straight sets Stevens.  The Ducks won by the scores of 25-20, 25-21, 25-21. Angel Perez led Springfield with 13 kills, while Ricardo Padilla Ayala added nine kills.  Keaton Pieper handed out 30 assists as Springfield was limited to a .167 hitting percentage, its second-lowest clip of the season.  Ryan Malone was credited with a match-high 12 digs, and Joseth Irizarry Feliciano chipped in five kills and three blocks.

Juniata
All-Time Record: 22-24
Last Meeting: April 27, 2016

The Springfield College men's volleyball team captured its third-straight NCAA Division III National Championship on Sunday afternoon after a three-game sweep of host Juniata College. Set scores for the Pride were 25-20, 25-21, 25-21. Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) was named the NCAA Most Outstanding Player for the second-straight season as he erupted for 17 kills at a .367 clip while notching a match-best four blocks. Teammates Keaton Pieper (Dallas, Texas) and Jimmy O'Leary (Reading, Pa.) were named to the All-Tournament team as Pieper delivered 39 assists and O'Leary dominated the middle with 13 kills on a remarkable .750 hitting percentage.

Springfield put together the single-best three-set hitting percentage in all of college men's volleyball so far this year, hitting at a .692 clip with 39 kills on 52 attempts with just three errors. Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) totaled 34 assists, while Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) led the Pride with 12 kills, hitting .688.  Trevor Mattson (Redlands, Calif.) had nine kills on 12 errorless attemps, and Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) registered a career-best six blocks in leading the Pride's defensive efforts which held Hunter to a -.015 hitting percentage on the night.