(First published by The Springfield Student)
In NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball, there has only been one school able to defend the national title and today that statistic still stands. Following the Pride’s defeat of Stevens, 3-1, they have completed a back-to-back title run and snagged their 11th in program history.
In 2017 against the State University of New York at New Paltz, the contest ended with a service error from freshman setter Matt Grace that sent the sea of white of erupting in Blake Arena. The Pride, sporting their white jerseys, represented that crowd at Carthage College as the final serve was sent flying over the heads of the Springfield players.
In 2017, Springfield kept the trophy at home by winning the title iat home. That title run was headlined by 2017 National Player of the Year Luis “Ricky” Vega. This season, the trophy will once again stay in Springfield, Mass. with this title run being headlined by 2018 National Player of the Year Sergio Figueroa Velez.
In the semifinal round, the Pride handled Vassar College, 3-0. Graduate student Sean Zuvich led the Pride with 11 kills on a .550 clip. Joseth Irizarry Feliciano also added six kills at a .556 clip. This lights out Springfield performance advanced them to the championship game against Stevens.
In the opening set of the final, the Pride struggled from behind the service line notching five service errors early on. However, the men in white would stick to their script. While Stevens fought hard, Figueroa Velez would nail his shot to the floor on a set from Mike Neary to close out set one, 25-20.
Coming into the second frame, the Pride carried their momentum to roll through Stevens. Springfield only fueled their energy on huge blocks by Irizarry Feliciano and big swings from Figueroa Velez and Ricardo Padilla Ayala.
In the final set, the Pride did not hold back. With each hit, spectators were able to view the experience from each Pride athlete on the court. At a 24-9 scoreline, the Pride set up their defense and awaited the final serve of the night. As the ball was tossed up, silence dropped throughout the arena watching the ball sail out of the court. The set concluded with a 25-12 Springfield victory and officially secured the title.
Figueroa Velez led the way for the Pride with 13 kills at a .393 clip. Padilla Ayala added 12 kills of his own. Neary also contributed 38 assists during the match.
Now, back-to-back champions, Springfield returns home once again with the crown.