Huntingdon, Pa. – April 26, 2014 - The Springfield College men’s volleyball team advanced to the 2014 NCAA Division III Championship after a three-game sweep of Carthage College in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Juniata College’s Sports and Recreation Center. Set scores were 25-16, 25-23, 25-21.
It marks the fifth-straight season that the Springfield College men’s volleyball team has advanced to the national championship, including its third-straight NCAA Championship match. The Pride will play for the national title on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm, squaring off against the third-seeded host, Juniata.
The victory boosts the top-seeded Pride to a 26-8 record this season, including 25-3 against Division III opponents.
Springfield and Carthage had met three times earlier in their history, the last coming when the Pride swept the Red Men in the 2012 NCAA Division III National Championship.
Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) led all players with 17 kills at a .389 clip, while Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) notched nine kills and a team-best nine digs. AVCA Division III National Player of the Year Jimmy O’Leary (Reading, Pa.), produced eight kills on a .500 hitting percentage to go along with a match-best five blocks, and Keaton Pieper (Dallas, Texas) recorded 31 assists as he guided the Pride to a .312 hitting percentage in the match.
The Pride opened up the match on a 7-2 run, with Vega hammering a kill to force Carthage into a timeout. After the Red Men got within 12-6, the Pride scored four of the next five points to earn a 16-7 advantage. Carthage would get no closer than eight, and after Vega crushed a ball to give Springfield set point, a Carthage ball handling error allowed the Pride to take a 25-16 win. The Pride's offense came out on fire, hitting .458 in the set with Vega leading the way with seven kills.
After Angel Perez (Naranjito, Puerto Rico) delivered a monster solo block to put Springfield ahead 8-4 to begin the second set, Carthage reeled off an 11-2 surge to snag a 15-10 lead and force the Pride into a timeout. Vega brought Springfield within 19-18, but a 4-2 run by the Red Men put them in control, 23-20. From that point on, it was all Springfield as the Pride put together a remarkable burst, scoring the final five points to take the set, 25-23. O'Leary was simply dominant in the stretch, tallying two blocks and a kill, while Ryan Lilley (Stony Brook, N.Y.) served four points for the Pride, including a critical ace.
Despite grabbing an early 4-1 lead on a Pieper, Vega, and Sean Peterson (Norfolk, Va.) triple block in the third, Carthage stormed back with seven straight points for an 8-4 lead. Springfield would respond with 8-2 push of their own, using a big swing from O'Leary to cap of the run. Vega converted another kill to put Springfield ahead 20-16, only to have Carthage make one last run, scoring three unanswered to make it 20-19. Out of a timeout, Springfield used consecutive kills from Zuvich and O'Leary to gain a three-point cushion, and a huge solo stuff from O'Leary gave the Pride match point. Perez then capped off the three-game sweep, ripping his seventh kill of the match off the Carthage block for the win.