Springfield vs. 2014 NCAA Field:
Springfield has faced seven of the nine NCAA Tournament teams this season, going 6-3. The Pride split with second-seeded New Paltz, winning its first contest 3-1 on Feb. 6, and losing its second meeting in three sets just two weeks later. Springfield has swept Kean on Feb. 8, MIT on March 5, Stevens on April 4. On March 1, the Pride grinded out a four-set victory over Baruch, 3-2. Rivier defeated the Pride in both of their meetings this season, in four sets on Feb. 1 and in five sets on Feb. 15.
The Pride has won eight Division III titles, hoisting the Molten Invitational National Championship trophy six times 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2010, before capturing the inaugural NCAA Division III crown in 2012 and then repeating as National Champions in 2013.
Defending National Champs:
Springfield College won last year's NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship by defeating Nazareth College, 3-0, in Nazareth's Kidera Gymnasium. The Pride won by set scores 25-18, 25-13, 25-22. Springfield was led by championship tournament MVP freshman Luis Vega, who posted 13 kills and hit at a .632 clip. In addition, Greg Falcone posted seven kills and a team-leading three blocks. The Pride also received notable performances from libero Nick Ferry, who registered a match-high seven digs and Mike Pelletier, who tacked on 13 kills in the victory
Division III Supremacy:
In the program’s last four years, Charlie Sullivan and company has produced a 98-10 record against Division III opponents. In 2014, five of the eight losses that the Pride suffered came to Division I and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) opponents.
Since 2008, the Pride have played in five of six national championship games, including being victorious in four of them. Ever since the implementation of the NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball National Championship in 2012, the Pride have won back-to-back titles, with a chance of winning their third in three years in 2014.
From 2003 to 2009, Juniata College had a similar run, making six out of seven national championship matches, but only came out victorious five times.
West Coast Openers:
2014 marked the fifth-straight season that Springfield opened up its season on the West Coast. The youthful Pride opened up the year with three consecutive losses to the likes of Hope International, Grand Canyon, and Concorcia-Irvine.
Shuffling the Lineups
This season, Sullivan and the Pride have searched to find the right combination of lineups on the court. All told, Springfield has trotted out 18 different starting lineups to begin a match. Below is a breakdown of the most used lineups this season.
Pieper, Peterson, Vega, Perez, Zuvich, O’Leary, Ferry – 4
Malone, Vega, Pieper, O’Leary, Perez, Ermi, Ferry – 4
Malone, Vega, Pieper, Peterson, O’Leary, Perez, Ferry – 3
Malone, Vega, Ermi, Pieper, Perez, O’Leary, Ferry – 3
The Springfield College men’s volleyball team has established strong ties to the state of California and it’s reflected in its roster. The Pride have a total of seven Golden Staters, including four first-years. The seven student-athletes is the third-most among Division III men’s volleyball teams.
NYU – 13
UC- Santa Cruz – 12
Rivier – 7
Southern Vermont – 7
Springfield – 7
This season, the Springfield College men’s volleyball team has four Puerto Ricans on the team. In addition to returning Angel Perez and Luis Vega, the Pride added newcomers Luis Garcia Rubio and Eduardo McCormack to the mix. The four Puerto Ricans ties Springfield College for the most among any team in that plays men’s volleyball in the NCAA.
IPFW (Division I) – 4
Erskine (Division II) – 4
Springfield (Division III) – 4
The Springfield College men's volleyball team had a program record four student-athletes earn American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Men's Division III First-Team All-America recognition. Middle blocker Jimmy O'Leary, setter Keaton Pieper, and outside hitter Luis Vega took home first-team honors for the first time in their careers, while libero Nick Ferry earned the first-team accolade for the second time in his career.
As a program, Springfield College has had 20 student-athletes garner AVCA All-America recognition a total of 35 times, including 23 first-team selections. No other Division III program in the country has received more AVCA All-American selections than the Pride's 35 honorees. Springfield previously had three AVCA First-Team All-America selections in 2004, 2010, and 2011.
Summer Trip For the Ages
For two weeks in July, 17 members of the Springfield College community represented Team USA as the men's volleyball program competed at the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia. Fresh of its second-straight NCAA Division III National Championship, the Pride changed their Maroon and White uniforms for the Red, White, and Blue as they competed against Australia, Estonia, Belarus, Russia, Korea, Hong Kong, China, Chile, and Macau on the international stage.
Charlie Sullivan helped the U.S. Men’s National Team win the NORECA Continental Championship for the first time since 2007 at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, BC, Canada in October while in the midst of his sabbatical. As assistant professor of physical education at Springfield College, Sullivan spent a week prior to the competition in Anaheim, California with the team for the training and then worked with the team as a consultant and scout for the week-long competition. It marked the sixth time in Sullivan's career that he has had a stint with the U.S. Men's National Team in international competition.
Regulars at the NCAA’s
Since the inception of the NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball Championship in 2012, only four schools have appeared in each of the first three championships. Springfield, which has been the top seed in each, has been joined by Baruch, Rivier, and Kean as the only three-time participants.
The Pride returned just 29% of its kills (445 of 1546) and only 34% of its points (702.5 of 2,058.5) from a season ago as it graduated eight seniors, including four starters.
Out of Springfield’s top five on the total kills leaderboard, both Mike Pelletier (331) and Greg Falcone (213) graduated, while John Coen registered 196 kills during his final year in Maroon and White. Out of those top five, only Luis Vega and Jimmy O’Leary returned to Blake Arena, who posted 199 and 191 kills, respectively.
Ryan Malone began his collegiate volleyball career on January 13, 2014 and played in his first match just four days later against Hope International. A four-year star for the men’s soccer team, Malone was selected to the NSCAA All-New England North First Team and became the first Springfield College men's soccer player to earn NSCAA Division III All-New England First Team honors.
Malone helped lead the Pride to the 2013 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England Championship, scoring two goals in the two-day tournament. The senior finished the season with 13 goals, tying him for the most goals in a season in Division III program history and the most a Springfield player has scored since the 1992 season. Of Malone's 13 goals, five proved to be game-winners, a new program record.
This season, the senior ranks fifth on the team with 134 kills and has chipped in 78 digs, 31 blocks, and 25 aces while playing on the both left and right side for the Pride.
Against The 2014 Field
Kean -- All Time Record: 4-0
Last Time Out: On February 9, 2014, Sophomore Luis Vega registered 19 kills to power the Pride to a four-set win over Kean University. The Pride won by the scores of 26-28, 25-11, 25-17, 25-21. Ryan Malone filled the stat sheet with 10 kills, eight digs, and five blocks, while Jimmy O'Leary posted eight kills on a 12 errorless swings for a .667 hitting percentage. Keaton Pieper led Springfield's offense to a .352 hitting percentage with 46 assists, and Nick Ferry notched 11 digs.
Carthage -- All Time Record: 3-0
Last Time Out: Led by MVP Mike Pelletier, Springfield College won the inaugural NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship by defeating Carthage College, 3-0, at Springfield College's own Blake Arena on April 29, 2012. Set scores were 25-21, 25-23, 25-16. Pelletier tied for a match-high 10 kills, along with a team-high seven digs, while freshman outside hitter Angel Perez produced 10 kills, along with five digs and a .474 hitting percentage.
Stevens -- All Time Record: 4-0
Last Time Out: An impressive 21 kills from sophomore outside hitter Luis Vega aided the Pride to a convincing 3-0 victory over Stevens Tech on April 4, 2014. The Pride won by set scores of 25-16, 26-24 and 25-22. Vega registered 21 kills on 31 attempts, hitting at a .581 clip. As a team, the Pride hit at a .434 clip, while the Ducks hit .247. Sean Zuvich tallied 14 kills of his own, while junior setter Keaton Pieper notched 44 assists in the victory.
Endicott -- All Time Record: 8-0
Last Time Out: Nine kills from Angel Perez led Springfield to a 3-0 victory over Endicott College on April 4, 2014. The Pride won by set scores of 25-9, 25-12, 25-13. Springfield finished the match hitting at a .429 clip, dropping 37 kills on 70 attempts. Junior Ryan Quesenberry posted seven kills in the victory, while Luis Garcia Rubio tacked on 24 assists.
Juniata -- All Time Record: 21-24
Last Time Out: Despite a career-best 24 kills from Mike Pelletier, the top-ranked Springfield College men's volleyball team was defeated by rival and sixth-ranked Juniata in a five-set marathon on February 15, 2013. Juniata prevailed 24-26, 25-20, 22-25, 28-26, 24-22. Pelletier hit .360 from the outside and added six digs and three blocks. Greg Falcone tallied 16 kills at a .464 clip to go along with four blocks, while both Jimmy O'Leary and Alistair Matthews notched 13 kills each.
Rivier -- All Time Record: 8-2
Last Time Out: The Pride nearly rallied for a five-set victory but ultimately fell to Rivier University on February 15, 2014. The Raiders knocked off the Pride for the second time in the 2014 season with a 25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 22-25, 19-17 win. Angel Perez led Springfield with 17 kills, while both Greg Woods and Sean Zuvich came off the bench to register 14 kills apiece. Sean Peterson tallied a team-best seven blocks, and Luis Garcia Rubio notched 40 assists in the final three sets.
New Paltz -- All Time Record: 40-2
Last Time Out: Springfield dropped a three-set decision to New Paltz on Saturday evening in Blake Arena in the second game of the Springfield College Invitational on February 14 by the scores of 25-23, 25-22, 25-23. Keaton Pieper was credited with 35 assists as the Pride hit .287 in the loss. Angel Perez and Luis Vega each had nine kills, while Jimmy O'Leary and Sean Peterson each had six kills and three blocks.