Springfield, Mass. - February 6, 2016 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team won the 2016 Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic Championship on Saturday evening in Blake Arena after a five-set win over Harvard University. The Pride won by the set scores of 35-33, 25-15, 19-25, 21-25, 25-13.
Harvard, which plays in the EIVA Division I Conference, drops to 3-4, while the Pride, who was ranked No. 1 in the country in the latest AVCA Division III National Coaches Poll, improved to 10-1. Playing in its fifth-straight Morgan Classic Championship match, this marks the second time in the 29-year history of the tournament that Springfield has been crowned the champion. The Pride previously claimed the title in 2011 in a three-game sweep of Lees-McRae.
Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) was named the Most Oustanding Player as he handed out 63 assists and led the Pride to a .346 hitting percentage. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) and Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico), who once again were tremendous in the win. Padilla Ayala registered a career-best 21 kills to go along with five aces, while Vega notched 18 kills, seven digs, and five blocks while hitting .361. Greg Woods (Middletown, Conn.) was just as impressive, totaling 20 kills at a .385 clip to go along with four blocks. Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) led the Pride with eight digs and Julian Welsh-White (Collingswood, N.J.) chipped in five blocks.
Casey White (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) and Branden Clemens (Carmel, Ind.) were each named to the All-Tournament Team for Harvard. Clemens finished with a match-best 23 kills at a .556 clip, while White added 11 kills of his own. Brad Gretsch (Encinitas, Calif.) registered 13 kills and Marko Kostich (Burr Ridge, Ill.) totaled 47 assists and six blocks in leading the Crimson to a .357 hitting percentage.
The opening set featured 19 ties and eight lead changes and proved to set the tone for the match. Springfield, which racked up 22 kills at a .357 clip in the frame, fought off eight set points , the last coming at 32-31. Padilla Ayala took over down the stretch, hammering three of his eight first-set kills to give the Pride a 35-33 win.
Springfield never trailed in the second set as it cruised to a 25-15 win. The Pride's offense was unstoppable in the second set as it tallied 11 kills on 14 errorless attempts, as both Woods and Padilla Ayala totaled three kills, while Vega racked up a trio of blocks.
Crimson did not go away quietly and used a .500 team hitting percentage in the third to pick up a 25-19 win thanks to five kills from Gretsch. After Vega brought the Pride within 9-8, Harvard put togther a 4-1 surge to force the Pride into a timeout. Springfield would get as close as 14-12 on another Vega kill, but the visitors pulled away for their first set win of the night.
In the fourth, Harvard raced out to a 12-7 cushion to force the Pride into a timeout. However, behind the tremendous serving of Eric Johnson (Tustin, Calif.), the Pride battled back to even things at 13, as the Crimson called for a timeout of their own. Out of the break, Harvard went on a 4-1 run and didn't look back as it forced a fifth set after another strong offensive performance, hitting .478 behind seven Clemens kills.
Springfield wasted little time taking control of the fifth set, grabbing a 4-1 lead after a kill by Garcia Rubio, and would later take an 8-5 lead at the switch as Woods and Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) elevated for a block. The Pride was seemingly in control up 13-10, but the Crimson rattled off three-straight points thanks to a pair of Springfield hitting errors to knot the set up. However, an ensuing service error gave Pride match point and Padilla Ayala blasted his 21st kill of the night off the block to give Springfield the title.
Springfield will play again on Tuesday when it returns to Division III action and hosts Rivier at 7:00 pm.
Chase Corbett, NYU
Lewis Rodriguez Sierra, Puerto Rico Mayaguez
Casey White, Harvard
Branden Clemens, Harvard
Luis Vega, Springfield
Ricardo Padilla Ayala, Springfield
Luis Garcia Rubio, Springfield - MVP