In front of a sold-out Blake Arena, the Springfield men's volleyball team captured the 2017 NCAA Division III national championship on Sunday afternoon in four sets over SUNY New Paltz. Set scores were 22-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-21 in favor of Pride.
Playing in a Division III national championship for the eighth consecutive season, Springfield wrapped up the year with a 29-2 record, including a 27-1 mark against Division III opponents. The loss concluded New Paltz's season with a 27-9 record.
Sunday's match proved to be a rematch of the 2016 NCAA Division III championship, and Springfield defeated New Paltz for the third time this season to claim the national title. Springfield has now captured 10 Division III national championships as a men's volleyball program, including winning four NCAA Division III championships after claiming the crown in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Springfield's Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) was named the Most Outstanding Player of the championship for the third time in his career as he recorded a match-high 17 kills to go along with four blocks and four digs.
Teammates Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) and Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) joined Vega on the All-Tournament Team as Garcia Rubio totaled 43 assists, eight digs, and three blocks and Jasuta registered a career-high seven blocks. Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) notched a team-best nine digs and Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) totaled 13 kills, eight digs, and four blocks.
|Springfield got Walnut and Bronze back after a two-year absence, winning the 2017 Division III men's volleyball title.
Springfield athletics photo
"I think someone would look at the stat sheet and say it wasn't the cleanest match of volleyball that could be played; it sometimes turned into more of an emotional battle than a technical battle," said Springfield coach Charlie Sullivan. "New Paltz plays so hard and they always come at you with everything they have, and that's part of the reason they got so much better as the second half of the season went on."
All-time men's volleyball champions
|The NCAA has sponsored a Division III men's volleyball championship for six seasons.|
|2016||SUNY New Paltz|
For New Paltz, Jake Roessler led the way with 12 kills, while Anthony Bonilla added 11 kills. Matthew Grace posted 41 assists leading the offense, Robert Nolan produced 16 digs, and C.J. Borfitz added a team-best four blocks.
New Paltz raced out to a 6-2 lead when Bonilla converted out of the backrow in transition and Sullivan wasted little time calling a timeout. Jonathan Rodriguez Lopez (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) would finish out of the middle to bring Springfield within 11-9, but the visitors answered with three-straight points, thanks to a pair of Pride attacks errors, and Sullivan burned his second timeout of the frame. Woessner ripped an ace to push the Hawks advantage to 18-14, and Springfield would climb within one twice, the last coming at 23-22 on a huge backrow kill by Vega, only to have a two Pride miscues give New Paltz the 25-22 win.
Vega and Rodriguez combined for a block at 2-1 in the second set, but the Hawks responded with four-straight points to build a 5-2 cushion. Springfield would answer back, using a pair of blocks from Garcia Rubio to fuel a 7-2 surge and earn a 9-7 lead. An ace from Vega allowed the Pride to gain a 16-14 edge, but three-consecutive Springfield errors made Sullivan call a timeout trailing 17-16. Vega elevated for a solo stuff to put Springfield back on top, 20-19, and New Paltz burned a timeout of their own when Jasuta painted an ace along the back line at 22-20. Zuvich pounded a kill in system for set point at 24-21, and the Pride took a 25-22 win following a Hawks service error. New Paltz was limited to a -.174 hitting percentage thanks to the Pride totaling 6.5 team blocks.
The third set started as a back-and-forth affair with 12 ties in the early going as New Paltz took a 15-14 edge into the media timeout. Springfield then used a Vega backrow kill to kickstart a 4-0 run that was capped off by a solo stuff from Padilla Ayala as the Hawks called for a timeout at 18-15. The visitors would make it a 18-17 game when Bonilla finished in transition, but the Pride produced a 3-1 burst to regain a three-point edge on a Padilla Ayala kill, forcing the visitors into their final timeout. After Woessner buried a ball in the middle to make Sullivan call timeout with a 23-22 edge, Zuvich ripped a ball cross court for set point and Padilla Ayala blasted a kill off the block for the 25-23 win. Vega was dominant in the frame, totaling eight kills on 15 errorless attempts.
Borfitz put away an overpass kill for a 5-3 lead to begin the fourth set, but a 5-1 push fueled by a three kills from Vega put the hosts ahead 8-6. After Padilla Ayala crafted a kill out of the backrow for the 10-8 lead, Springfield committed three-straight attack errors and Sullivan called for another timeout. Even at 13, the hosts rattled off three-straight points, with a Jasuta closing for a solo stuff as New Paltz called for a timeout at 16-13. The Hawks would get as close as 16-15 when Bonilla blasted a back row ball, but out of a timeout, Springfield responded with a 5-2 push to gain some breathing room following a Hawks attack error. Vega would later elevate for a crafty kill for set point and three points laster, New Paltz committed its 18th service error of the match sealed the Pride's 10th overall national title.
"It just turned into a couple of rallies here and there," Sullivan said, "and I thought our guys were great about staying calm and composed and at the end I think we played our best volleyball, which was really good to see."