Springfield, Mass. - February 10, 2018 - For the third-straight year, the Springfield College men's volleyball team team won the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic as it toppled New Paltz in straight sets in Blake Arena. In a rematch of the last two NCAA Division III National Championships, the Pride won by the set scores of 25-19, 25-10, 25-22.
The Pride, who was ranked No. 1 in the country in the latest AVCA Division III National Coaches Poll, improved to 11-1 on the season and have now won 11-straight matches. Playing in its seventh-straight Morgan Classic Championship match, this marks the fourth time in the 30-year history of the tournament that Springfield has been crowned the champion. The Pride previously claimed the title last year in straight sets over Vassar, produced a five-set victory over Harvard in 2016, and a three-game sweep of Lees-McRae in 2012.
Sergio Figueroa Velez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) was named the Most Valuable Player of the Morgan Classic as he put together a remarkable showing, totaling 12 kills at a .733 clip, to go along with 10 digs, five blocks, and four aces. He was joined on the all-tournament team by Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.), who totaled 25 assists in leading the Pride to a .366 hitting percentage, as well as Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico), who tied a career-high with 15 digs. Billy De La Espriella (Northridge, Calif.) chipped in eight kills and Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) tallied five blocks of his own. Springfield's defense was dynamic, as it racked up 12.5 team blocks and held the Hawks to a .059 hitting percentage.
New Paltz's Nick O'Malley tallied five kills and two blocks and Matthew Grace totaled 27 assists as each were named to the All-Tournament Team. Landon Shorts from Stevenson and Chase Howard from Harvard were also honored.
New Paltz jumped out to a 7-3 lead after O'Malley and Aaron Carrk combined for a stuff on the pin, only to have the Pride answer back with a 7-1 surge that was capped off by a solo block by Figueroa Velez. Springfield's lead grew to 17-12 when Figueroa Velez ripped a ball out of the back row, but the Hawks battled back to within 19-17 following back-to-back attack errors by the hosts. However, behind the strong serving of Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), which included a pair of aces, the Pride raced away with a 25-19 win. Springfield limited New Paltz to a .000 hitting percentage, as it produced 5.5 team blocks.
It was all Figueroa Velez to start the second set as he ripped four aces and converted a pair of back row kills as part of an 9-0 run to kick off the second set. Springfield dominated the set from there, with with a solo block from Figueroa Velez making it a 17-6 contest. Irizarry Feliciano would later give Springfield set point when he bounced a ball in the middle, and a service error gave the Pride a 25-10 win. The Pride hit .600 in the set, with five players have two kills apiece.
O'Malley converted out of the middle for the Hawks as part of a 3-0 burst to give the visitors a 5-3 edge, but Springfield would answer right back and take an 11-9 advantage after Figueroa Velez ripped a ball down the line in transition as New Paltz burned a timeout. After New Paltz knotted the set at 12 on an ace by Grace, Springfield scored six of the next nine points, with Figueroa Velez adding another kill down the line for the 18-15 lead. The visitors would get as close as 23-22, and out of a Springfield timeout, Figueroa Velez delivered a back row kill after an sensational defensive play by Irizarry Pares for match point. New Paltz would then commit their 27th attack error of the night as the Pride picked up the straight-set win.
Springfield's next action will come as a tri-match in Blake Arena next Saturday when it hosts St. Joseph's (LI) and Wentworth, beginning at 4 pm.