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

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

Springfield, Mass. – April 24, 2019 – The Springfield men's volleyball team will head out to New Jersey for the 2019 NCAA Division III National Championship as the overall No. 1 seed and will face New Paltz in the national semifinals on Friday on the campus of Kean University.

Follow the Action
Friday, April 26 - 4 pm 
NCAA Division III Championship Semifinals
No. 1 Springfield vs. No. 4 New Paltz
Live Stats & Live Video

Let's Get Social
Sign up to join us for an alumni and parents social during the 2019 NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship on Friday, April 26 at 6 pm.  Enjoy complimentary appetizers and a cash bar as you catch up with former teammates, Springfield College alumni, current parents, and Springfield College administrators and staff at Ursino Steakhouse and Tavern on the campus of Kean University. 

Last Time Out
The Springfield College men's volleyball team powered past Rivier in straight sets in the NCAA Division III Championship Quarterfinals on Saturday evening Blake Arena.  The Pride won by the scores of 25-13, 25-19, 25-21.Brennen Brandow (Manorville, N.Y.) was dominant in his debut on the national stage as he registered a match-high 19 kills at a .405 clip to go along with eight digs, three blocks, and three aces.  Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) led the Pride to a .327 hitting percentage with 30 assists, 13 digs, and five blocks, while older brother Eli Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico)contributed nine digs, eight kills, and eight assists.  Johjan Mussa Robles (Caguas, Puerto Rico) notched 10 digs, Kyle Jasuta(Manhattan Beach, Calif.) recorded six kills and six blocks in the middle, and Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.) added 11 digs and seven kills.  Springfield totaled 53 digs and 11.0 team blocks in holding Rivier to a .088 hitting percentage. 

Championship History
The Pride has won 11 Division III titles, hoisting the Molten Invitational National Championship trophy six times 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2010, before capturing five NCAA Division III Championships.  The Pride swept Carthage in Blake Arena for the inaugural NCAA Division III title in 2012 before sweeping host Nazareth in 2013 and host Juniata in 2014 for its third-straight crown. Most recently, Springfield captured the 2017 title in front of its home crowd in Blake Arena over New Paltz and swept Stevens for its second-straight title in 2018 in Wisconsin.  

Division III Supremacy
Since the NCAA began its sponsorship of the Division III Men's Volleyball National Championship in 2012, Charlie Sullivan and company have produced a 211-12 record against Division III opponents.  Since 2008, the Pride has played in 10 out of 11 national championship games, including being victorious in seven 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 from 2012-14, claimed titles in 2017 and 2018, 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.

Quite the Rivalry
Over the past several years, Springfield College and New Paltz has emerged as one of the top rivalries in the sport and produced some tremendous performances from both sides.  In 2016, New Paltz defeated Springfield three times, including for the NCAA Division III National Championship at Nazareth College in four sets.  In 2017, it was Springfield that defeated the Hawks three times during the year, highlighted by claiming the NCAA Division III National Title in Blake Arena in four sets.  In 2018, the Pride won all three meetings with New Paltz in the regular season, and Springfield has topped the Hawks twice so far in 2019. 

Back in the Garden State
Springfield will be traveling to compete in the state of New Jersey for the seventh straight year.  In that span, Springfield has owned a record of 10-4 while competing in the Garden State, including wins over Rutgers, NJIT, Kean, Stevenson, Cairn, and Nazareth and setbacks to Stevens, Kean, and NJIT.

Playing in Harwood Arena
The last time that Springfield played in Kean's Harwood Arena was on February 7, 2015.  The Pride swept Stevenson in their opening match of the day behind 14 kills from Ricardo Padilla Ayala before falling in straight-straights to Kean despite 11 kills from Angel Perez.

Top of the Polls
Springfield has been ranked No. 1 in the country in nine of the 14 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III National Polls this year, and has been among the top two ranked programs in the country in the past 59-consecutive polls dating back to 2015.   At one point, the Pride was ranked No. 1 in the country in 37-straight polls dating back to 2017. 

West Coast Openers
2019 marked the 10th-straight season that Springfield opened up its season on the West Coast. The Pride started the year with a three-set loss to Concordia Irvine, before rallying for a 3-1 victory over Hope International to complete the trip. 

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 five Golden Staters in the lineup and 2 help make up the starting lineup Mike Neary  and Kyle Jasuta.

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, Springfield College in the only one school have appeared in each of the first eight championships. Springfield, which was the top seed in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, and now 2019, was the No. 2 seed in 2015, and 2016.

An Efficient Offense
Springfield is the number sixth ranked offense in Division III men's volleyball in overall team hitting percentage, and is hitting at a .290 clip, which is just .029 off of Endicott's nation-best percentage of .319.  Springfield had led the country in team hitting percentage the previous seven seasons, including an incredible 2017 campaign in which the Pride posted a .414 hitting percentage, which was the highest hitting percentage of any program, men or women, at the NCAA Division I, II, or III level, and was over .100 points above the next team.

All-America Status
Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) was chosen to the first team, while Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Brennen Brandow (Manorville, N.Y.) and Johjan Mussa Robles (Caguas, Puerto Rico) received second-team honors, while Brandow was selected as the AVCA Division III National Newcomer of the Year.   Springfield's four honorees this year was the most of any program in the country.

As a program, Springfield College has had 29 student-athletes garner AVCA All-America recognition a total of 54 times, including 33 first-team selections. No other Division III program in the country has received more AVCA All-American selections than the Pride's 54 honorees. 

In his second season at Springfield, Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares has put together a dynamic year in helping the Pride have put together a 27-2 record. The sophomore has directed an offense that ranks sixth in the country with a .290 hitting percentage and has racked up 870 assists.  In addition to leading the team with 42 aces, he has also contributed 119 kills at a .440 clip to go along with 50 blocks. Becoming the 20th student-athlete in program history to take home first-team honors, Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares has been instrumental in Springfield earning the top seed in the NCAA Division III Championship for the third-straight season.

Jasuta earned the national honor for the third-straight year after an impressive final season where he registered a .425 hitting percentage with 185 kills, the third-most on the team.  Jasuta's .425 hitting ranks eighth best in Division III in that category.  A graduate student working on his MBA, Jasuta has totaled 73 blocks, the most on the team, to go along with 32 aces, and has been instrumental in Springfield ranking in the top two in the country of the past 59 AVCA Division III National Polls, dating back to 2015.  

In his junior season at Springfield, Mussa Robles earned the national honor for the first time in his career. The Athletic Training major owns 270 digs on the year, the third best mark in single season history for the Pride, and has been a catalyst for Springfield holding its opponents to a .158 hitting percentage. After receiving over 575 serves this season, Mussa Robles owns a .946 service reception percentage and ranks in the top 20 nationally in digs per set.

In his first season in maroon and white, Brandow earned the national newcomer of the year award, making him the sixth member of the Pride to recieve this honor as he joined the likes of Ricardo Padilla Ayala (2015), Angel Perez (2012), Cal Palumbo (2008), A.J. Nally (2007), and Nick Beer (2004). The Physical Education major owns a .273 hitting percentage on a team-best 311 kills, making the first time a freshman has led the Pride in kills since 2001.  Brandow was the only freshman in the country to earn all-america honors, as he also totaled 169 digs, 49 blocks, and 28 aces.

A New Lineup

Entering the 2019 campaign, Springfield returned just one starter who played in the same position on the 2018 NCAA Division III Championship squad, as the Pride lost over 80% of its offensive production from a year ago.  The Pride moved a pair of 2018 NCAA Championship All-Tournament team honorees to different positions, as Mike Neary switched to right side after being named the MVP of the 2018 Championship as the Pride's setter, while Eli Irizarry Pares became and outside hitter after three seasons as the Pride's starting libero.  Kyle Jasuta was the only returner from a season ago who averaged more than a kill a set, as he totaled 165 kills and 1.67 kills per set in 2018. 

The Starting Seven

The Pride has relied heavily on seven student-athletes to reach the final weekend of postseason play in 2019.  Springfield has seven student-athletes who have played in at least 80% of the Pride's sets, with Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares appearing in a team-best 100 sets among the 104 that Springfield has played in his year.

A Family Affair
This season, there are three siblings that are a part of the Springfield College men's volleyball program and have been instrumental in the Pride's success this season. 
Eli Irizarry Pares has led Springfield in his final season while playing an entirely new position at outside hitter.  The Health Care Management major ranks second on the team with 224 kills, third on the squad with 174 digs, and has chipped in 81 assists, 22 blocks, and 16 aces.
In his first season leading the offense, Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares earned first team all-america honors as the sophomore directed an offense that ranks sixth in the country with a .290 hitting percentage and has racked up 870 assists.  In addition to leading the team with 42 aces, he has also contributed 119 kills at a .440 clip to go along with 50 blocks. 
Alex Irizarry is in her second  season as a graduate assistant coach with the Springfield College men's volleyball program during the 2017-18 academic year while working to earn her Master's degree in Psychology.  Irizarry came to Springfield College from Norfolk State, where she was a four-year standout for the Spartans and finished her career 11th all-time at NSU in career digs (603) and 12th in matches played (99) before graduating in 2017 with a Bachelor's degree in Health Service Management. 

Against The 2019 Final Four Field

New Paltz
All-Time Record: 52-5
Last Meeting: March 13, 2019

The Springfield College men's volleyball team earned a four-set win against New Paltz in a showdown between a pair of nationally-ranked teams in Blake Arena.  The Pride prevailed by the set scores of 25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23.  Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) recorded 32 assists, 11 digs, five kills, and four aces, while his older brother Eli Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) contributed a team-best 11 kills.  Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) added four kills, five digs, three aces, and three blocks, and Brennen Brandow (Manorville, N.Y.) totaled eight digs, seven kills, and three blocks as the duo highlighted a defensive effort that limited New Paltz to a .130 hitting percentage.

All-Time Record: 7-1
Last Meeting: April 28, 2018

The Springfield College men's volleyball team won the NCAA Division III National Championship after cruising past Stevens in straight sets in Tarble Arena on the campus of Carthage College.  The Pride won by the scores of 25-20, 25-14, 25-9. Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.) was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Championship as he handed out 38 assists in leading the Pride to a .351 hitting percentage.  Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) were also named to the All-Championship Team, as Irizarry Pares collected 13 digs in leading the Springfield defense, while Zuvich concluded a remarkable tournament with 10 digs and five kills. 

UC Santa Cruz
All-Time Record: 3-1
Last Meeting: February 21, 2014

Led by senior Ryan Malone (Chicopee, Mass.), the Springfield College men's volleyball team picked up a critical four-set win over UC Santa Cruz in the Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic. Set scores in the match were 25-22, 25-15, 23-25, 25-21. Malone had the best match of his career as he produced 17 kills at a .444 clip to go along with nine digs, four aces, and three blocks. Angel Perez (Naranjito, Puerto Rico) added 12 kills, and Nick Ferry (Valencia, Calif.) registered a match-high 11 digs. Jimmy O'Leary (Reading, Pa.) notched seven blocks and Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) dished out 47 helpers.