Springfield, Mass. - February 9, 2018 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team made quick work of Stevenson University in the opening game of the 2018 International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic on Friday in Blake Arena.
Springfield, ranked No. 1 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) for the 19th-consecutive week spanning back to last season, won for the 10th-straight outing to improve to 10-1, while Stevenson dipped below .500 to 4-5.
The Pride were victorious by the scores of 25-18, 25-16, 25-19, and for the seventh-straight year, Springfield advanced to the championship match of the Classic, which is regarded as the premier men's collegiate tournament on the East Coast.
Competing against the Mustangs for the first time since the 2016 NCAA Division III Championship Semifinals, Springfield's offense was sensational as Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.) totaled 34 assists in leading the Pride to a season-best .530 hitting percentage. Sergio Figueroa Velez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) led all players with 12 kills and nine digs, while Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) posted 11 kills at a .667 clip. Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) chipped in six kills and four blocks, and Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) registered seven digs to anchor a defensive unit that held the visitors to a .081 hitting percentage.
For Stevenson, Landon Shorts recorded eight kills, four digs, and three aces, while Jason Gardner chipped in six kills.
An ace from Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) gave the Pride a 9-5 edge, only to have the visitors storm back with a 6-1 burst, using a pair of huge aces from Shorts, to take an 11-10 advantage. However, the Pride answered with five-straight points, getting consecutive kills from Figueroa Velez to force the Mustangs into a timeout at 15-11. Springfield continue the pressure and push its lead to 20-14 when Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) crushed a ball in system as the Mustangs burned their final timeout. A kill from Irizarry Feliciano gave the hosts a 25-18 win in a stanza where they hit .579, thanks Figueroa Velez picking up seven of their13 kills.
Springfield earned a quick 4-1 advantage after Irizarry Feliciano converted out of the middle, and after the visitors pulled within 8-7 on the Pride's second attack error the frame, Figueroa Velez elevated for a monster solo stuff at 13-8 as the Mustangs whistled for a timeout. Consecutive kills from Zuvich in transition put Springfield ahead, 17-11, and a big swing out of the back row by Billy De La Espriella (Northridge, Calif.) completed the 25-16 win. Irizarry Feliciano delivered three kills and two blocks in the set for the Pride.
Tucker Evans (Midlothian, Va.) blistered an ace for the 8-4 lead in the third and Stevenson called for a timeout trailing 13-6 following an attack error. Stevenson pulled within 16-11 on a kill by Garret Weigel, but a 6-1 push capped off by a kill by Zuvich allowed the Pride's lead ballon to 21-12. Springfield finished the set hitting .636, with Zuvich delivering seven kills on seven errorless attempts.
New Paltz 3, Harvard 2 (14-25, 25-13, 26-24, 19-25, 15-12)
The New Paltz Hawks held on for a five-set win over Harvard in the night's second match to advance to Saturday's championship, where they will play Springfield in a rematch of the last two NCAA Division III National Championships.
Leading the way for New Paltz was Nick O'Malley, who totaled 13 kills at a .500 clip in the middle, while Aaron Carrk produced 16 kills and seven digs on the right side. Nick Smith chipped in 14 kills and six digs and Matthew Grace was credited with 53 assists in leading the Hawks to a .242 hitting percentage.
Harvard hit .294 in the setback, bolstered by a fourth set in which they hit .536. Jack Heavey paced the way for the Crimson with 11 kills, Trevor Dow totaled nine kills and seven blocks, and Riley Moore registered seven kills and five blocks. Chase Howard tallied a match-best 10 digs and Marko Kostich handed out 32 of Harvard's 45 assists on the evening.