Springfield, Mass. - March 31, 2018 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team powered their way past rival New Paltz in four sets in Blake Arena on Saturday night by the set scores of 25-20, 24-26, 26-24, 25-22.
Tonight's match featured the two teams who have battled each other in each of the last two NCAA Division III Championship matches and marked the third time this season that the Pride has come out victorious against the Hawks. Springfield was ranked atop the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III National Coaches Poll for the last 26-straight polls dating back to last season, and for the second-straight season, Springfield has strung together a winning streak of 25 matches as the Pride improved to 25-1. The Hawks, ranked eighth nationally, dropped to 17-7 with the loss.
The Pride finished the night hitting .404 as Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.) and Eli Gabriel Irizarry Pares (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) combined for 39 of Springfield's 47 assists. The outside hitter duo of Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Sergio Figueroa Velez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) were sensational as Padilla Ayala had 16 kills, hitting .462, to go along with 10 digs, while Figueroa Velez notched 14 kills at a .632 clip and added 10 digs and four aces. Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) totaled a match-high four blocks and Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) registered a match-best 12 digs.
For New Paltz, Nick Smith had 13 kills, Ben Cohen added 12 off the bench, and Ryan Cole added 10 kills. Matthew Grace was credited with 41 assists for a Hawks squad that had 34 more offensive attacks in the game that Springfield, as the Pride owned a 43-21 edge in digs.
After New Paltz seized a 4-1 lead to start the match, Springfield poured on six-straight points, as the Hawks burned both of their timeouts, the second coming on a Figueroa Velez ace which put the hosts on top 7-4. The Hawks would take a 12-11 lead when Smith converted a kill off the block, but Tucker Evans (Midlothian, Va.) capped off a three-point run by ripping an ace to give the Pride a 19-15 cushion. Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) painted the back line for an ace at 23-18 and the Hawks eighth service error of the set later allowed the Pride to take a 25-20 win.
Springfield strung together three-consecutive points, getting a huge stuff from Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) and Figueroa Velez to open up a 10-8 cushion and force the Hawks into a timeout. The Hawks would later regain a 17-14 edge after Cohen blistered a ball out of the ball row as the Pride burned its second timeout of the frame. However, Springfield would respond with a 4-1 burst, getting a kill in transition from Figueroa Velez as the visitors whistled for a timeout of their own. After New Paltz regained a 20-18 lead, Springfield answered with another 4-1 run, using a cross court kill from Padilla to take a 22-21 edge. The Hawks would respond with three-straight points to gain set point, but a kill from Padilla Ayala and solo stuff from Zuvich tied things at 24. However, the Hawks used a sideout kill from Cohen and an overpass kill from Smith to complete the 26-24 win, a frame in which they totaled 18 kills compared to the Pride's 10.
New Paltz won the first three points of the third set, but Springfield responded with three of their own, as a kill from Figueroa Velez evened things early on. The frame would feature 16 ties and five lead changes, and after Figueroa Velez hammered a back row kill at 19-18, New Paltz answered with three-straight points, getting an overpass kill from Cohen to force Springfield into a timeout trailing, 21-19. The Pride would even things at 21 when Figueroa Velez converted down the line, and after the hosts fought off set point with a monster swing from Irizarry Feliciano in the middle, Padilla Ayala crushed a ball cross court in transition as the Hawks called for a timeout trailing 25-24. Out of the break, Gabriel Irizarry Pares found Figueroa Velez for a back row kill, his eighth kill of the frame, which gave Springfield the 26-24 win. The Pride erupted for 20 kills in the stanza at a .586 clip.
Tied at seven in the fourth, Padilla Ayala scored out of the back row as part of a three-point surge to put the hosts on top, 10-7. After New Paltz pulled within 14-13, back-to-back attack errors by the Hawks allowed the Pride to gain a 16-13 cushion as the visitors called a timeout. The Hawks battled back within 18-17, only to have a kill from Irizarry Feliciano and back-to-back aces from Figueroa Velez provide the hosts a 21-17 advantage. From there, Springfield would coast to a 25-22 win to complete their third win over New Paltz this season.
Springfield will continue its four-match homestand on Thursday night when it hosts Milwaukee School of Engineering at 6 pm.