Fullerton, Calif. – January 13, 2017 – The Springfield College men's volleyball team let match point slip away in the fourth set and was eventually defeated in Hope International in five sets in their season opener on Friday night in Darling Pavilion. The Royals won by the scores of 25-23, 14-25, 22-25, 27-25, 15-11.
Springfield, which opened the season as the top-ranked team in Division III for the second-straight year according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Poll, dropped to 0-1. The Royals, who compete at the NAIA level, improved to 3-0.
Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) led Springfield with 15 kills and 10 digs in the loss, while Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) led the Pride's offense to a .301 hitting percentage as he handed out 54 assists. Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) tied a career-high with 12 kills coming at a .500 clip, while Trevor Mattson (Redlands, Calif.) tallied 11 kills. Johjan Mussa Robles (Caguas, Puerto Rico) was credited with 10 digs in collegiate debut, and Jonathan Rodriguez Lopez (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) racked up six blocks.
After dropping the first two points of the match, the Pride took its first lead at 4-3 on a Garcia Rubio service ace. Springfield's lead grew to 8-4 thanks to four-straight attack errors by the Royals, but the hosts would battle back to even things at 11 after consecutive miscues. The Pride would later burn a timeout after falling behind 16-15, and despite tying things up twice, Springfield committed back-to-back hitting errors to allow the Royals to open up a 21-19 cushion. Springfield's offense struggled to find its rhythm, hitting just .114, as it eventually dropped the opening frame, 25-23.
Springfield responded by putting together a four-point burst to start the second, getting a pair of kills from Jasuta to surge out to a 7-2 lead and force the Royals into a timeout. Springfield would maintain its cushion and later string together four-straight points, with a Matson kill in transition allowing the Pride's lead to balloon to 19-9. The Pride hit .500 as a team and took the frame, 25-14, following the Royals seventh attack error of the set.
After Jasuta converted out of the middle to even things at three in the third, the Royals rattled off eight-straight points to grab a commanding 11-3 advantage. Springfield answered back with a 5-2 push, getting consecutive kills from Billy De La Espriella (Northridge, Calif.) to force the hosts into a timeout leading 13-8. Springfield would take a 21-20 lead thanks to a 6-1 run that featured three kills from Mattson, and the senior later put down the Pride's 15th kill of the set to complete the remarkable comeback as Springfield won by a 25-23 decision.
Padilla Ayala hammered an overpass for a kill to give Springfield a 9-7 lead in the fourth, and the cushion grew to 16-10 on a block by Jasuta and De La Espriella. The Royals would claw their way back to knot the set at 23-all following back-to-back Springfield attack errors as the Pride burned its final timeout. Mattson hammered a ball cross court for match point, only to have Hope International rattle off a 3-1 burst for a 26-24 win and force a fifth set.
Padilla Ayala and Jasuta combined for a monster block to give the Pride a 4-2 lead in the fifth, but the Royals responded with six-straight points and force Springfield into a timeout at the switch. Padilla Aylala would later blast a kill to bring Springfield within 12-10, only to have the hosts score three of the final four points to wrap up the five-set win.
The Pride will play a pair of matches on Saturday, taking on Irvine Valley CC at 12 pm PST, before heading back to Hope International for a rematch at 7 pm PST.