SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – April 11, 2008 – AJ Nally had 20 kills, Ryan Fredrickson 16, and Andy Sipe and Cal Palumbo 10 each to lead the Springfield College men's volleyball team to a 3-1 victory over Juniata College tonight in the first semifinal of the 2008 Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship in Blake Arena at Springfield College.
Game scores were 27-30, 31-29, 30-19, 30-25. Springfield improved to 19-6, while Juniata fell to 10-13. Juniata was the four-time defending national champion.
As a result, the #2-seeded Pride will now advance to take on the winner of #1-seeded UC-Santa Cruz and #4-seeded Vassar tomorrow night at 8 pm.
Springfield's win was its second against Juniata this season. The Eagles had beaten the Pride (3-1) earlier at Juniata, before Springfield came back to win the rematch at SC (3-2) two weeks ago (March 28).
Juniata won the first game, 30-27, taking control almost from the outset. SC came back to take a brief 21-20 lead, but the Eagles scored the next five points to regain control.
Game two was more Juniata's game than it was Springfield's. At 12-all, Juniata tallied the next four points. Again, Springfield came back to tie it at 20-all. But the Eagles scored six of the next nine points to take a 26-23 advantage. SC then came back to tie at 26-, 27-, and 28-all. At 29-all, SC took a 30-29 lead, and then won it on an attack error. The key in game two for Springfield was the play of senior Javier Rosario (San Juan, Puerto Rico), who provided a major spark coming off the bench when it looked bleak for the home team.
In game #3, Juniata was in the lead early on at 7-5. But a 13-3 run by the Pride put Springfield in command, 18-10. The Pride would lead by as many as 12 points, 27-15, later on, before winning game #3, 30-19.
Game #4 was pretty much Springfield all the way. The score was tied at 4-all, but that was the last major contact for the Eagles. Springfield then took leads of 11-6, and 16-9. Later on, the Eagles put a scare into the home team by rallying to cut the margin to 26-23, 27-24, and 28-25. But consecutive kills by junior Andy Sipe (New Oxford, Pa.) and junior Ryan Fredrickson (Surf City, N.J.) ended matters at 30-25.
Nally played solidly from start to finish with 20 kills, 6 digs, and a .421 hitting percentage. Fredrickson added a team-high 9 digs to his 16 kills. Sipe had 8 blocks, and a .474 hitting percentage, to go along with his 10 kills. Sophomore setter Eric Shoemaker (Mount Wolf, Pa.) contributed 62 set assists. Senior Eric Palumbo (Chili, N.Y.) had 5 kills in 6 swings for a .667 hitting percentage. And sparkplug Rosario had 7 kills and 7 digs, mostly in games #2 and 3, when they were really needed.
For Juniata, sophomore Zach Wanner (Lancaster, Pa.) led his squad with 16 kills, followed by freshman Craig Harvey (Beverly, Mass.) with 11, and senior Matt Fritz (Churchville, Md.) with 10. Junior setter Matt Werle (Meadville, Pa.) contributed 7 kills, along with 8 digs, and 46 set assists. Sophomore Anthony Damiano (Lititz, Pa.) had a team-high 9 digs. Sophomore Evan Halteman (Perkiomenville, Pa.) had a team-high 6 blocks.
Said Rosario after the match, "We came back last week in a great match against NYU (down 0-2), and we had to work just as hard tonight against a great Juniata team. We stayed focused when things were not going our way, but we were able to play with intensity and win the match."
As a team, Springfield wound up hitting .358, while Juniata hit .163.