Fullerton, Calif. - January 15, 2016 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team opened up the 2016 campaign with a five-set victory over Hope International on Friday evening. The Pride won by the set scores of 21-25, 27-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-8.
Opening up the season on the West Coast for the seventh-straight year, Springfield is currently the top-ranked Division III team in the country according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Coaches Preseason Poll. This marks the first time since 2009 that Springfield has won its season opener and the first time in the past seven seasons that it has opened the year with a win over a team from the West Coast.
Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) had a dynamic return for the Pride as he produced a match-high 19 kills, at a .406 clip, to go along with eight digs and five blocks, while teammate Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) delivered 17 kills, hitting .419. Greg Woods (Middletown, Conn.) chipped in 13 kills and Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) dished out a career-best 58 assists as he led the Pride to a .346 hitting percentage. Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) notched five blocks and five kills, and Eli Irizarry (Chesapeake, Va.) totaled 10 digs in his collegiate debut.
The Pride was hampered by 29 service errors in the match, but did have 14.0 team blocks and seven service aces.
Springfield raced out to a 5-1 lead to begin the match, following a big swing from Woods, but would fall victim to a 9-3 run by HIU to trail 10-8. A kill from Irizarry Feliciano evened things at 13, only to have an 8-3 surge by the Royals put the hosts in control. The Pride would get as close as three, using four kills each from Woods and Padilla Ayala in the opening set as HIU picked up a 25-21 win.
In the second set, Springfield fell behind 4-1 as it burned an early timeout. The visitors would eventually take a 24-20 lead on a Padilla Ayala ace, only to have the Royals storm back and even the set at 25 apiece. However, Vega crushed his fifth kill of the frame and Woods sealed the win with an ace to complete the 27-25 victory.
The third set featured 13 ties, the last coming at 18-all following a double block from Garcia Rubio and Irizarry Felicano. HIU would benefit from consecutive Springfield errors and not look back as it took a 2-1 set advantage with a 25-21 third-set win. Woods led Springfield's offense with five kills in the frame, while the Royals registered a match-best 13 kills in the set.
Springfield's offense started to find it's rhythm in the fouth set as it hit .345, bolstered by four kills apiece from Vega and Padilla Ayala. Even at 13-all, HIU would commit three-straight errors to allow Springfield to edge out to an 18-15 advantage. The hosts would get as close a 19-18, but the Pride was able to force a fifth set after picking up the 25-21 win.
The Pride's offense was unstoppable in the fifth, totaling 12 kills at a .617 clip, powered by five kills from Vega. Tied at three-all, Springfield put together a 5-1 surge capped off by a kill from Padilla Ayala to take a commanding 8-4 cushion. Trevor Mattson (Redlands, Calif.) provided a great spark off the bench with three kills, and Vega sealed the match with his 19th kill to complete the comeback victory.
Springfield will play three matches on Saturday, beginning at Concordia at 3:00 pm EST. The Pride will then travel to take on Irvine Valley CC at 8:30 pm EST before taking on Hope International at 11:00 pm EST.