Rochester, N.Y. - April 16, 2011 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team's dream of winning a seventh Molten National Championship ended on Saturday evening as Nazareth College prevailed in four sets at the 2011 Molten Division III Men's Invitational Championship on Saturday evening. The Golden Flyers were victorious 25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22.
Nazareth earned its first national championship as it improved to 31-3 on the season. Springfield's bid at a record seventh national title did not come to fruition as it dropped to 16-14 on the year.
In its 15th and final year, the Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship was formed due to a need for a culminating event for NCAA Division III men's volleyball. However, a vote at the NCAA Convention in January has given NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball its own NCAA Championship, with the first event being conducted in April 2012.
Alberto Bravo carried Springfield throughout the match as he tied a career-high with 25 kills at a sensational .500 clip to go along with seven digs and three aces. Greg Falcone chipped in with nine kills hitting .500, while Mike Pelletier notched eight kills. Mike Becker handed out 50 assists as he led Springfield to a .421 hitting percentage. Nick Ferry also finished 10 digs. Springfield hurt themselves from the service line as they tied a season high with 25 miscues. Both Bravo and Cal Palumbo earned All-Tournament Team honors for their play this weekend.
Most Valuable Player Hans Schroeder led the Golden Flyers with 15 kills, while Robert Kraft registered 14 kills at an incredible .684 clip. Billy Gimello posted a double double with 13 kills and 13 digs, and EJ Wells-Spicer delivered a match-high 53 assists while guiding the Golden Flyers to a .393 attack percentage.
The Golden Flyers took control of the opening set and opened up a three-point cushion at 17-14 after a kill by Schroeder. However, Springfield showed plenty of grit as it responded with a 4-0 burst off kills from Bravo and Becker, coupled with a Bravo ace and double block from Palumbo and Tommy Crow, to take an 18-17 lead. The Golden Flyers then benefited from a pair of Springfield errors as they took a 20-19 lead and forced the Pride into its first timeout of the match. Another Bravo kill evened the set for the final time at 22 before Gimello manufactured a kill off the block and notched an ace to give the hosts set point. A Falcone kill stemmed the tides before Ellis Walsh answered out of the middle for a 25-23 win for Naz.
Springfield’s benefited from its aggressive serving in the second as it totaled three quick aces to snag an early 7-3 lead. Riding the strong play of Gimello, Nazareth battled back to get within one at 10-9. The Golden Flyers would eventually even the game at 15-all after Kraft’s attempt out of the middle found the court to force Springfield into a timeout. The Pride regrouped and opened up 19-17 lead after a big kill from Bravo and another block from Palumbo and Becker. Two straight points from the hosts would even the set at 19 all as the teams than began to trade points down the stretch. Bravo put a ball away with no block up, and Pelletier rose up for an important solo stuff as Springfield opened up a 23-21 it would not relinquish. A Falcone kill off the block gave SC set point, before Nazareth’s fifth attack error of the frame evened the match at a game apiece.
The Golden Flyers opened up a quick 3-1 lead to start the third, before Springfield would eventually even the set at four after Bravo and Falcone combined for a monster block. Nazareth would grind out an 11-8 lead on a Walsh, Schroeder, and Will Siwy triple block on a Springfield back-row attack, forcing Sullivan into another timeout. Naz’s lead would grow to as many as four at 14-10, only to have Falcone rip an ace to tie the set at 16. Springfield would eventually snag its first lead of the set on a Bravo ace at 18-17, only to have Jeff Gutmann connect on a great feed from Ferry to make it 19-17. The lead was short lived as Gimello’s ace in the back corner tied it at 19, and a big double block from Schroeder and Walsh regained the Golden Flyers lead. The score would once again be tied at 23 all after a Nazareth service error, but a big kill from Schroeder and a Springfield attack error allowed the Golden Flyers to take the third, 25-23.
Brian Bunch’s swing out of the back row found the court and Springfield called an early timeout with the score 5-2 in the fourth. Springfield would battle back to get within one nine times before a kill from Schroeder and a huge double block from Schroeder and Kraft forced Springfield into a timeout at 16-13. The Golden Flyers would then extend their lead to 19-14 on another Kraft kill, however, Bravo would not let the Pride go away quietly as back-to-back kills made 21-19. Springfield eventually cut it to one at 23-22 on a Naz attack error, but the Golden Flyers completed their championship victory after a Kraft’s kill found the back corner after a great rally.
The Pride’s season continues on Saturday afternoon when it hosts rival Juniata in the EIVA Division I Quarterfinals in Blake Arena at 4:00 pm.