Springfield College mens volleyball looks to win back-to-back national titles BY SAM LEVENTHAL
(Story first published by The Springfield Student)
Following another impressive campaign, the Springfield College Pride men’s volleyball team are now deep into April volleyball and looking at another title run.
Springfield has appeared in the title game every season since the NCAA Division III recognized men’s volleyball in 2012. Each one of these appearances has come under the helm of head coach Charlie Sullivan.
As the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, Springfield has once again received an at-large bid into the tournament, playing host to a section of the first round and quarterfinal fields.
In 2017, the Pride played host to the national tournament, taking down rival State University of New York at New Paltz, 3-1, for their 10th title. A game which was the most attended Division III men’s volleyball title. After that game, Springfield lost four seniors to graduation including Luis “Ricky” Vega who was named the Division III National Player of the Year.
While the losses from the previous season seemed to be significant on the surface, the Pride notched a 28-2 record in the new year, including 23 victories by straight sets. Their transition was seamless, leading the nation in hitting percentage and ranking top five in kills per set, aces per set, and win percentage.
In his second season with Springfield outside hitter Sergio Figueroa Velez, a transfer from Universidad de Puerto Rico, took a major leadership role this season and increased his performance on the court taking a top three spot in aces per set across the nation.
In addition to Figueroa Velez, graduate student Sean Zuvich proved to be a huge vocal presence for the Pride and undoubtedly aided the Pride as a seasoned veteran.
With a student body viewing a historic men’s basketball trip to the Final Four, the Springfield College community is looking again for the men’s volleyball team to do the same for the second consecutive season.
The Pride will play Lancaster Bible Chargers who defeated Rivier on Friday night in a match that went the distance. The Chargers took the opening set, but Rivier persisted and took the middle two, with Lancaster Bible closing out the final two frames.
While Rivier’s Garrett Bucklin and Deshaun Graham did their work on the defensive end with 10 digs and nine blocks, respectively, it wasn’t enough to match the swinging arm of the Charger’s Nate Miller.
Miller added an NCAA record 41 kills for a five-set match, beating the record previously co-held by former Springfield attackman Brandon Mueller. Kasey Gentry and Kole Horst added 11 digs to their stat line.
As the Pride prepare to take on the Chargers, they will have to find a way to stop Miller. While his 41 kills set a new record, the 6-foot-5 right side attempted his swing a total of 78 times. Springfield will also have to play patiently in their serve-receive as the Chargers had four players notching five or more service errors in yesterday’s thriller.
The winner of this NCAA Quarterfinal match will be heading to Wisconsin to take on the winner of Vassar and Kean.