Irvine, Calif. - January 19, 2019 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team opened the 2019 campaign against Concordia Irvine and was defeated in straight sets by the scores of 25-17, 25-17, 25-19.
Springfield, which is the top-ranked team at the NCAA Division III level in the preseason AVCA National Poll after earning its 11th national title last April, dropped to 0-1. Concordia Irvine, a Division II institution that competes in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation against the likes of UCLA, Stanford, and BYU, improved to 3-6.
The Pride was limited to a .070 hitting percentage in the setback, which marked Springfield's lowest team hitting percentage since February 8, 2011 when it hit .058 against Sacred Heart. Springfield has had the best team hitting percentage in Division III the past seven seasons.
Opening up the season in California for the seventh-straight year, Springfield was led by Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) as he handed out 18 assists to go along with three kills. Brennen Brandow (Manorville, N.Y.) totaled three blocks and four kills in his collegiate debut, while classmate Astin Sesoko (Corona, Calif.) produced a team-best six kills. Johjan Mussa Robles (Caguas, Puerto Rico) was credited with a match-best nine digs.
In the opening set, Springfield took a 9-8 lead when Brandow and Chris Parker (East Northport, N.Y.) teammed up for a block, only to have the Eagles use a 6-2 burst to open up a 14-11 advantage following back-to-back Pride attack errors. Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.) would later elevate for a solo stuff to knot the frame at 17, but the hosts closed out the stanza with eight-straight points en route to the 25-17 win.
A kill from Irizarry Pares allowed the Pride to earn an early 3-2 lead in the second, but Concordia would manufacture an 8-3 burst to take a 10-6 lead after force Springfield into a timeout. The Pride would pull within 16-13 on a Concordia service error, but would get no closer as the Eagles eased their way to another 25-17 win.
Leading 11-10 in the third, Springfield committed three attack errors in a four-point stretch to give the Eagles a 14-11 edge as head coach Charlie Sullivan signaled for another timeout. The Pride would use a 5-2 run to pull within 20-18, but the hosts scored five of the final six points to complete the sweep with a 25-19 win.