Kenosha, Wisc. - April 27, 2018 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team delivered a three-set sweep over Vassar in the NCAA Division III Championship Semifinals in Tarble Arena on the campus of Carthage College on Friday afternoon. Set scores were 27-25, 25-21, 26-24.
With the victory, Springfield punched its ticket to the national championship for the ninth-straight season, including its seventh-straight NCAA Championship match.
Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.) ran Springfield's offense to a .304 hitting percentage as he handed out 31 assists to go along with four aces and three blocks. Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) was dominant on the right side, totaling 11 kills on 20 errorless attempts for a .550 hitting percentage, while Sergio Figueroa Velez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) turned in eight kills. The middle hitting combo of Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) and Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) combined for 12 kills and seven blocks and Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) produced a team-best seven digs.
For Vassar, Matthew Knigge registered 13 kills, Zechariah Lee handed our 33 assists, and Kevin Ross was credited with nine digs, seven kills, and three blocks. The Brewers hit .186 in the setback.
The Pride will play for the national title on Saturday afternoon at 6:00 pm CST, squaring off against either Stevens or Dominican.
After back-to-back attack errors by Vassar allowed the Pride to take a 7-4 lead in the opening set, the Brewers answered back with three-straight points to even the set for the fifth time in early going. Springfield would rattle off a 5-1 surge, getting an overpass kill from Figueroa Velez to take a 12-8 advantage before the senior ripped an ace for a 15-10 cushion at the media timeout. An ace from Zuvich would allow the Pride to earn an 18-14 edge, but the Brewers put together a 6-1 spurt, as Jefferson Waters finished in transition to put Vassar on top 20-19. Springfield responded with a 5-3 push to earn set point, only to have the Brewers keep fighting and eventually tie things at 25-all. However, a Vassar service error and monster solo block from Figueroa Velez gave Springfield the 27-25 win. The Pride hit at a .370 clip in the opening frame, with Zuvich and Figueroa Velez each posting five kills.
Highlighted by a pair of aces from Neary to start the second, Springfield seized a 3-0 cushion, before Neary found the back corner for a kill to push the lead to 8-4. However, Vassar responded with four-straight points, getting an ace down the line from Ryan Duchemin to knot the frame at 8-8. Neary ripped his third ace of the frame at 12-10, and Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) cranked a ball in transition at 15-11. Springfield's lead grew to 18-13 when Figueroa Velez crafted a kill out of the back row, but the Brewers would not go away, using three-straight points to pull within 18-16. However, the Pride answered back with a 4-1 surge of their own, using a kill in transition from Zuvich down the line to force Vassar into a timeout down 22-17. The Pride would coast from there, getting a 25-21 win in a frame in which seven different players registered at least one kill.
A back-and-forth start to the third set featured seven ties in the early going before the Brewers produced consecutive blocks to force the Pride into a timeout. Springfield would battle back to ties things at 12-all when Neary and Jasuta delivered a block on the outside, but Vassar would regain a 17-15 edge. From there, Irizarry Feliciano manufactured a 3-0 burst, using two kills and teamming with Padilla Ayala for a block to force the Brewers into a timeout. Clinging to a 22-20 advantage, Springfield surrendered the next three points and would fight off set point after a kill by Zuvich to tie the set at 24-all. Vassar then committed back-to-back attack errors to give Springfield the 27-25 win in a set that featured 15 ties.