POUGHKEEPSIE, NY - January 23, 2009 -- When the top-ranked team in the country in the Bison/AVCA Top 15 Coaches Poll comes into the No. 3-ranked team's gym, one can expect a spirited competition. When that game happens to be a rematch of the previous National Championship game, one might predict a classic.
Vassar College and Springfield College provided just that for a raucous capacity crowd at Kenyon Hall tonight, with the two teams taking the five-set match to the limit and displaying aggressiveness and tenacity throughout. Springfield prevailed in the contest and thereby retained the nation's top rank, winning 28-30, 30-18, 30-23, 26-30, 17-15.
With the victory, the Pride improves to 2-0 and will next play Harvard at home this Tuesday, January 27 at 7:00 pm. The Brewers, now 0-2, will host NECVA Metro foe SUNY New Paltz this Wednesday, January 28 at 7:00 pm.
Vassar won the first set and then dropped the next two, in which Springfield boasted a .444 and .324 attack percentage and held 15-11 and 17-12 advantages in kills. In the fifth set, which included eight ties and five lead changes, the Brewers appeared to have the early momentum. Junior outside hitter Phil Tully (Huntington Station, NY/Walt Whitman) sparked an early-set run with three of his match-high 19 kills and Vassar led 4-2.
That cushion grew to a 10-6 edge after a block by Brewer seniors Steve Micucci (Millis, MA/Millis) and John Kessenich (Chicago, IL/Richard Montgomery), but Springfield reeled off a 5-0 run to snag the lead, 11-10. The two squads then traded the next nine points before the Pride broke open the 15-15 tie with two straight kills by Springfield senior Mark Ribeiro (New York, NY) to end the match.
Springfield was superior to Vassar in nearly every statistical category throughout the match, but the Brewers refused to back down in the fourth set after dropping the second and third by a total 19-point margin. Down one set to two in the fourth, Vassar snapped a 12-12 deadlock and reeled off an unanswered 6-0 run. Kessenich assisted on every point in that rally, which found the Brewers with a 18-12 lead and the edge needed to send the match into a fifth and final set. The home team fought off two match points, at the 13-14 and 14-15 marks, but Ribeiro's final two kills secured a Springfield win.
Vassar was led by the AVCA 2008 All-American duo of Tully and Kessenich. Tully had 19 kills to go along with 11 digs, and Kessenich had 51 assists. Three other Brewers hit double figures in kills: Evan Fredericksen (Menlo Park, CA/Menlo Atherton) had 13 and Greg Maier (Millis, MA/Millis) and Micucci each added 12.
For the Pride, junior AJ Nally (Rochester, NY) tallied 18 kills and Ribeiro had 17. Sophomore Cal Palumbo (Rochester, NY) added 13 kills on a .400 hitting percentage, and Eric Shoemaker (Mount Wolf, PA) assisted on 56 Springfield kills.
The two teams, familiar foes having faced each other four times since last January, will next play in Springfield on Tuesday, March 10 at 7:00pm.