Cambridge, Mass. - April 8, 2017 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team had its 25-match winning streak snapped on Saturday afternoon as it was defeated by MIT in five sets in the Rockwell Cage. The Engineers won by the set scores of 25-18, 22-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-11.
The top-ranked in the country according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III National Coaches Poll for a program-record 12th-straight week, Springfield lost for the first time since its season opener on January 13 and is now 25-2. MIT, who was ranked 15th this week, improved to 20-9 with the win.
Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) led all players with 22 kills, while teammate Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) added 14 kills at a .407 clip. Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) totaled 59 assists as the Pride hit .333 in the contest, and Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) was credited with a career-high 14 digs. Springfield was hampered by 29 service errors in the loss.
The Engineers built a 12-6 lead in the opening set and would have its lead balloon to as much as 10. The Pride committed seven attack errors in the frame and would eventually drop a 25-18 decision as it hit just .129.
After a Padilla Ayala kill evened things at 7-7 in the second set, the hosts surged ahead with an 8-3 burst to gain a 15-10 cushion, forcing the Pride into a timeout. Trailing 22-20 after a ball handling error, Springfield used two of Vega's seven second-set kills to close out the set on a 5-0 run to even the match at a set apiece.
Springfield's offense continued to find its rhythm, hitting at a. 462 clip in the third, with Padilla Ayala posting a team-best five kills. A kill from Jonathan Rodriguez Lopez (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) gave the Pride a 16-9 advantage, but the Engineers battled all the way back to 24-23. However, a service error by MIT allowed the Pride to take the frame, 25-23.
The fourth set featured eight lead changes and 15 ties, the last coming at 15 all. MIT responded with two-straight points to gain a cushion that it would not relinquish, despite a kill from Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) bringing the Pride within 23-22. Ultimately, the Engineers forced a fifth set with back-to-back kills as the Pride dropped at 25-23 decision despite hitting .583, getting another five kills from Padilla Ayala.
A kill from Vega knotted the fifth set at 2-2 before MIT put together a 7-3 run, which featured three Springfield attack errors. Springfield would get not closer than three as the Engineers hit .471 in the stanza to claim the upset win.
The Pride will play its final match of the regular season on Wednesday when it travels to face Division I NJIT for a 6 pm contest.
Photo by Mark Dannenhauer