Springfield, Mass. - March 23, 2012 - The Springfield College men's volleyball managed to put together two key victories in the opening day of the Springfield College Invitational on Friday. In their first match since March 8, the Pride shook off some early rust before sweeping 15th-ranked Kean University, 25-16, 25-14, 25-20. In the nightcap, the Pride showed plenty of grit rallying for a five-set win over rival and 4th-ranked Juniata, 25-21, 21-25, 18-25, 25-23, 16-14.
The two victories lifts Springfield, who is ranked third in the country, to 19-5.
Against Kean, Springfield had a very balanced attack, with 10 players recording at least two kills. Mike Pelletier and John Coen each posted five kills, while Keaton Pieper accounted for five of the Pride's 10 service aces. Jimmy O'Leary notched a team-best three blocks, and both Nick Ferry and Angel Perez picked up five digs each. Springfield, which leads the country in hitting percentage, hit .387 as Mike Becker and Pieper directed the attack, combining for 32 assists.
For the visitors, Christian Portera registered a match-high seven kills and Steve Valhalla chipped in with six kills. Kean hit just .087 for the match as Ron Dunn handed out 23 helpers.
Against Juniata, Alistair Matthews finished with a match-high 23 kills, hitting .326 from the right side. Pelletier added a double-double with 14 kills and 11 digs, while Ferry was tremendous defensively with 19 digs. Greg Falcone registered six blocks, and both O'Leary and Jeff Gutmann produced six kills. As a team, the Pride hit .277.
The Eagles were paced by Joe Bortak and Paul Kuhn, both of whom ended the evening with 14 kills. Ross Madden added 13 kills, six blocks, and three aces and John Almquist stuffed his stat line with 42 assists, 12 digs, six kills and four blocks.
In the opening set versus Juniata, Springfield took an early 11-8 after following a terrific swing out of the back row by Matthews. Springfield’s lead grew to as much as six, at 21-15, before the Eagles clamped down on defense to make a push back. Bortak posted a monster solo block and two plays later, combined with Almquist to make it a 21-19 game and force the Pride into a timeout. Springfield scored four of the final six points, with the final point coming on Matthews fourth kill of the frame.
Madden provided the Eagles with a great start in the second set from the service line as the Eagles took an early 6-1 lead. Juniata continued its early pressure and with a block from Kuhn and Kyle Rodgers, which forced Springfield into their second timeout through just 10 points. The Eagles lead grew to 13-4 on a Rodgers and Madden block, but Springfield responded with a remarkable run, scoring eight-straight points to make it 13-12 after a Matthews ace. Springfield would eventually even things at 16-all after a Juniata attack error, but the Eagles were too strong down the stretch. After a Matthews kill made it 18-17 in favor of the visitors, Juniata ripped off five straight points and held on for the 25-21 win.
O’Leary connected out of the middle to even things at eight in the early going of the third as the teams went back-and-forth to begin the frame. The Eagles responded with a 5-1 push, capped off by a Kuhn kill to make it 13-9 and force the hosts into a tmeout. Springfield got as close at 19-16 following a Juniata error, but a 6-2 spurt to close out the game brought Juniata one set from victory. Despite out-hitting the visitors, .321 to .308, Springfield didn't do itself any favors committing eight service errors in the set.
After Madden connected to put Juniata up 20-15 in the fourth, things looked bleak for the Pride. However, both Gutmann and John Coen provided the spark Springfield would need for the most unlikely of comebacks, rallying to even things at 21-all after Pelletier's tip found the back corner. With the score even at 23, Coen converted cross-court and Gutmann put the exclamation point on the comeback by crushing an overpass, completing the 10-3 run, and forcing a fifth set.
Springfield pounded out 11 kills in the fifth set and hit .409, but needed to rally early again to pull out the win. After it trailed 8-5 following another Kuhn termination, Springfield score the next four points, using consecutive kills from Gutmann, to go up 9-8 and force the visitors into a timeout. The teams traded the next five points before a Juniata service error and monster block from Falcone and Pelletier on the left side made it 13-11. Falcone snuffed out a Madden back-row attack to provide Springfield match set point, only to have the Eagles get a kill form Paul Ejups and use a Almquist and Rodgers block to tie things at 14. Matthews came through once again with a big kill of the block for another Pride match point, and the comeback was completed after Kuhn's swing sailed long.
Springfield College Invitational
Kean 3, Baruch 2 (22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 26-24, 17-15)
Juniata 3, Wentworth 0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-10)
Springfield 3, Kean 0 (25-16, 25-14, 25-20)
Baruch 3, Wentworth 1 (18-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-21)
Springfield 3, Juniata 2 (25-21, 21-25, 18-25, 25-23, 16-14)