Springfield repeats in men's volleyball

The 2013 Division III men's volleyball champions.
Springfield athletics photo

The Springfield College men's volleyball team successfully defended its national title on Sunday afternoon as it swept Nazareth College to claim the 2013 NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball national championship. The Pride put forth a dominating effort, winning by the set scores of 25-18, 25-13, 25-22.

Top-seeded Springfield finished the season with a 32-3 record and won its final 26 matches of the season. The victory proved to be Springfield's third national championship in the past four seasons, including the first two sponsored by the NCAA.

Freshman Luis Vega continued to shine on the national stage and was named the championship's Most Outstanding Player after posting 13 kills at a .632 clip. Greg Falcone was named to the all-tournament team with seven kills on a .545 hitting percentage and team-best three blocks, and was joined Nick Ferry, who registered a match-high seven digs. Mike Pelletier dominated from the pin, totaling 13 kills as well on a .480 clip.

Setter Keaton Pieper earned the just his fourth start of the season and didn't disappoint, leading the Pride to a .382 hitting percentage with 33 assists. Mike Becker ripped three of Springfield's seven aces in the contest.

In the opening set, the Pride gained a 4-3 advantage on a thunderous block by John Coen and Jimmy O’Leary, and extended its early cushion to 7-5 following a service ace from O’Leary. After Nazareth regained a 10-9 lead, Springfield rattled off four-straight points to earn a 13-10 lead and force the Golden Flyers into the timeout. O’Leary was key in the spurt, producing a monster block and overpass kill.

Out of the break, Falcone kept the Pride rolling with an ace down the line to extend the lead to 14-10. Two-straight Pride errors brought Nazareth back within one at 15-14, only to have Falcone and Pieper combine for a huge block at 18-15. Vega then ripped a cross court kill in transition to force Nazareth into another timeout at 19-15.

Vega hammered his seventh kill of the early going to make it 23-16 and Pelletier added a back row attack for set point. After a service error, Falcone connected out of the middle for a 25-18 win. Springfield held a .423 to .167 advantage in hitting percentage in the set.

The Pride scored the first four points of the second set, with Falcone and Coen highlighting the early burst with a big block. Springfield extended its lead to 12-6 after two-straight Nazareth attack errors and a blistering ace by Becker. Following a Nazareth timeout, Becker’s serving kept Nazareth off balance and the Pride’s offense rolled, with the visitors opening up a 10-point lead at 16-6. The Golden Flyers would answer back with a run of their own, scoring four-straight points to force Springfield into its first timeout.

However, Springfield extended its lead back to 21-11 on a Vega ace and Coen banged an overpass kill for the 11-point advantage. Pelletier rose up for a solo stuff for set point and Springfield took a two-set advantage after Nazareth’s service attempt went under the net. The Pride’s offense continued to be untouchable, posting a .438 attack percentage compared to the Golden Flyers' -.095 clip.

It was the Golden Flyers who had a quick 3-1 lead in the third, but Springfield quickly regained a 4-3 lead after a Nazareth attack error. After O’Leary converted out of the middle at 7-6, the Golden Flyers turned on a 4-1 spurt to snag a 10-8 lead. Coen delivered from the right side to answer back for Springfield at 11-10, but Nazareth started to find its rhythm and get the home crowd back in the game as it regained a 16-13 lead on an overpass kill.

Springfield responded behind the play of Pelletier, who tied the set at 17 on a kill that capped off a long rally. The Pride burned another timeout following a hitter error at 20-18, but would not be denied on the afternoon as Vega sided out on a roll-shot kill. Becker ripped an ensuing ace in the back corner to tie the set and Falcone found a touch off his swing at 22-all.

After Vega powered a back row kill off the block for the 23-22 lead, the Springfield faithful could sense the national title within their grasps. A Nazareth attack error gave the Pride match point, and Falcone put the exclamation point on his illustrious career with a block in the middle to send the Pride into a frenzy.