Rivier (7-1), which handed Springfield its first Division III loss earlier this season, entered the match ranked No. 1 in the latest AVCA Division III National Coaches Poll. Springfield (10-5) was ranked No. 2 in the nation this week.
Angel Perez (Naranjito, Puerto Rico) led Springfield with 17 kills on the afternoon, while both Greg Woods (Middletown, Conn.) and Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) came off the bench to registered 14 kills apiece. Sean Peterson (Norfolk, Va.) tallied a team-best seven blocks, and Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) notched 40 assists in the final three sets.
Chris Markuson (Cupertino, Calif.) also finished the afternoon with 17 kills for the visiting Raiders. Aaron Almario (Alhambra, Calif.) notched 13 kills while hitting .500, and Shane Spellman (Norwich, Conn.) totaled 11 kills of his own. Terence Mattatal (Danville, N.H.) controlled the middle with 10 kills and seven blocks. Tyler Blank (Rochester, N.Y.) also had seven blocks to go along with 50 assists.
Springfield jumped out to a 4-1 lead as O’Leary and Keaton Pieper (Dallas, Texas) combined for a block in the early going. Rivier got back into with their play at the net, using a Mattatal and Markuson double block to force the Pride into a timeout after taking a 13-10 lead. Springfield regained the lead as Pieper and Peterson combined for a key block at 16-15 as the Raiders called their first timeout of the afternoon. Springfield would later score three-straight, using a Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) kill off the block and Pieper ace for a 20-17 lead, but the Raiders got back within 20-19 on a Blank overpass kill. Springfield pushed the lead back to three on a Vega ace at 22-19, but four-straight from the Raiders, put the visitors ahead by a pair. O’Leary finally sided out for the Pride, but Spellman completed the comeback with a cross court kill for the 25-23 win.
Rivier connected for four kills on their first six swings to take a quick 8-4 edge to begin the second frame. The Pride battled back to 10-8 on back-to-back Perez kills and eventually evened things at 15 on a Ryan Lilley (Stony Brook, N.Y.) kill. However, the Raiders strung together a 6-2 burst, using back-to-back Mattatal kills to force Springfield into a timeout, trailing 21-17. The Pride would get no closer than four as Markuson coverted from the pin for a 25-20 win.
There were plenty of new faces in the lineup to start the third set for the Pride, and Zuvich brought an influx of energy, banging two early kills to put Springfield up 4-0. A huge solo block from Perez allowed Springfield to take a 13-5 lead and the hosts would later take a 22-10 cushion on Zuvich’s sixth kill of the set. Rivier made a hard charge with Almario at the service line, getting within 23-18 on a triple block from Mattatal, Blank, and Sam Kazlas (Allentown, Pa.). Zuvich finally sided out, and after a Mattatal kill stemmed the tides, Perez fired off his fourth kill of the set for the 25-19 win.
Rivier crept out to a 5-2 lead in the fourth, as the Pride wasted little time calling timeout. Out of the break, the hosts rattled off five-straight points, with back-to-back kills from Woods forcing Rivier into a timeout of their own. Springfield took a 12-9 lead on a Perez kill off the block, but a 6-2 surge by the Raiders put the visitors back on top, 15-14. With the score knotted at 20, Springfield scored three of the next four points, highlighted by a pair from Woods as he skied above the Rivier block. After the teams traded points out of a Rivier timeout, Woods completed the fourth set with another towering kill, with seventh of the set.
Facing a 6-5 deficit in the fifth, Woods put the squad on his back, pounding out three kills and combining with Peterson for a monster block as the Pride took a 9-6 lead, forcing Rivier into a timeout. Markuson would elevate for a solo stuff to knot things at 11, only to have O’Leary side out for a 12-11 lead for the hosts. Springfield earned match point as O’Leary crushed a ball out of the middle in transition, but the Raiders answered back with two-straight points on an Almario kill and key double block by Blank and Almario at 14-all. Another Springfield attack error gave the Raiders match point of their own, the first of three which Springfield would fight off. The match was tied for the final time at 17 on a Zuvich and Peterson double block, but Kalzas put the visitors ahead with a kill and sealed with victory with a solo block for the Raiders.
Springfield 3, Johnson and Wales 0
The Springfield College men's volleyball wrapped up its own Invitational on Saturday afternoon with a three-set win over Johnson and Wales by the set scores of 25-14, 25-18, 25-17. The win improves the Pride's record to 11-6 this season.
Greg Woods (Middletown, Conn.) powered Springfield to the win with 12 kills on a .444 hitting percentage, while Ryan Malone (Chicopee, Mass.) added 11 kills at a .450 clip. Luis Garcia Rubio (Bayamon, Puerto Rico) led the Pride to a .387 hitting percentage with 34 assists, and Jimmy O'Leary (Reading, Pa.) notched six kills, three aces, and two blocks. Angel Perez (Naranjito, Puerto Rico) recorded a match-best eight digs in the victory.
For the Wildcats, Ryan Kennedy (West Barnstable, Mass.) registered a team-best 12 kills, and Shawn Kennedy (West Barnstable, Mass.) added six kills and four digs. Alex Viera (Bay Shore, N.Y.) was credited with six digs and J.J. Bessette (Coventry, R.I.) delivered 18 assists as his team hit .097 for the match.
With the score even at six in the opening set, a Malone kill jumpstarted a 8-0 push for the Pride as it took command with a 14-6 lead. O'Leary delivered a pair of aces in the spurt to key the Pride, which hit .433 in the set, with both Malone and Woods providing the hosts with six kills each.
Shawn Kennedy connected for the Wildcats to get within 11-10 in the second set before Springfield used a 6-1 burst to take control of the game. Jason Mascoe (Uniondale, N.Y.) had his hands in on a pair of blocks to highlight the run. JWU got as close as four, but Woods sealed the set with his ninth kill of the match.
The third set was similar to the first two, with a back-and-forth affair being broken open by a Springfield run midway through the frame. Holding a 10-9 lead, the Pride scored eight of the next nine points, thanks to six Wildcat errors. In fitting fashion, Woods slammed the door on the match with a thunderous swing from the pin to complete the sweep.
Up next for Springfield will be the Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic, which will be hosted in Blake Arena next weekend. The Pride will play on Friday evening at 8:00 pm against nationally-ranked UC Santa Cruz in a match that has major NCAA Championship qualifying implications.