Cambridge, Mass. - January 29, 2018 - A gritty effort by the Springfield College men's volleyball team allowed the Pride to rally past Harvard University on Monday evening by the set scores of 17-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-19, 15-11.
Springfield, which is currently the top-ranked Division III program in the country according to the AVCA National Coaches Poll, earned its sixth-straight win of the season to improve to 6-1. Harvard, a Division I insitution who plays in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA), evens its record to 2-2. Tonight's win marks the second time in three seasons that Springfield has bested the Crimson, as the Pride previously knocked off Harvard in five sets in the 2016 International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic Championship.
A pair of new faces led Springfield to the victory in their first career starts for the Pride. Right side Kenny Lawrence (Longwood, Fla.) put together a dynamic showing, producing 15 kills, 14 digs, five aces, and three blocks, while Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) was credited with 38 assists, 11 digs, and a pair of aces directing Springfield's offense. Sergio Figueroa Velez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) totaled career-high marks in both kills (13) and digs (8), Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) added 12 kills and eight digs, and Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) registered a career-best 15 digs.
Trailing 5-2 in the opening set after their first attack error of the game, Springfield responded with an 8-3 surge that was capped off by a huge block from Figueroa Velez and Lawrence for the 10-8 edge. The visitors lead would grow to 12-9 after consecutive miscues by the Crimson, only to have the hosts reel off eight-straight points, much in part to five errors by Springfield. Another kill from Lawrence would pull Springfield within 18-14, but Harvard's offense began to get into a rhythm and coasted to the 25-17 win.
Springfield dug itself another three-point deficit early in the second set, trailing 6-3, before a 7-4 surge fueled by three-straight aces by Lawrence forced Harvard into a timeout with the Pride leading 10-7. Springfield's advantage grew to 15-11, but the hosts responded with four-straight points as the Pride burned a timeout following their third-consecutive error. Out of the break, Padilla Ayala delivered four kills as part of a set-sealing 10-2 run as Springfield took the frame, 25-17.
After a kill from Gabriel Irizarry Pares put Springfield on top 3-2 in the third, Harvard produced a 7-2 burst following back-to-back attack errors as the Pride whistled for a timeout. Springfield climbed within 15-14, but Harvard capitalized three-straight Pride errors as part of a 4-0 burst to snag a comfortable 19-14 lead. The Pride would close to two points on three occasions, the last at 24-22 on Lawrence's fourth kill of the set, only to have Harvard take a 2-1 lead with a 25-22 victory.
The Pride had its best offensive showing in the fourth set as it racked up 15 kills at a .393 clip, led by Figueroa Velez's five kills. Tied at three-all, Springfield broke things open with a 9-3 run as its lead ballooned to 12-6. The Pride's cushion would grow to 23-15 after Padilla Ayala delivered another kill for the visitors, which would later result in a 25-19 win to force a fifth set.
It was Harvard that seized the momentum in the fifth, racing out to a 4-1 lead as the Pride burned a timeout. A kill and ace from Lawrence keyed a 3-0 run to knot the set at four, the first of four times the frame would be tied. Even at 7-7, a kill from Figueroa Velez gave Springfield the edge at the switch and the visitors didn't let up getting consecutive kills from Lawrence as part of a 6-2 run for the 13-9 lead. Harvard battled within 13-11 before a Crimson error and Padilla Ayala wrapped up the 15-11 triumph.
Springfield will return to action against Division III opponents this week with three more matches, beginning with a trip to New Hampshire on Wednesday for a showdown with Rivier