University Park, Pa. - April 28, 2011 - For the first time as a Division III program, the Springfield College men's volleyball team is headed to the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Championship match after toppling George Mason in four sets on Thursday evening.
The third-seeded Pride won in four sets over the second-seeded Patriots by the scores of 25-23, 28-26, 24-26, 25-20.
Springfield, which improves to 18-14 on the year, will square off against top-seeded Penn State on Saturday at 7:00 pm with a bid to the NCAA Division I Final Four on the line.
"This is a monumental achievement in Springfield College men's volleyball history," said head coach Charlie Sullivan. "To do this with a group of guys who are really young and had to figure things out as the season went on, even when things weren't going well, is a true testament to their character."
2011 has been a farewell tour of sorts for Springfield, playing its final season as a part of the EIVA. With a major shift coming collegiate volleyball next year -- with the announcement of the NCAA DIII Championship -- Springfield, will no longer be in the conference.
"In our last year, for us to be in this position is really cool," Sullivan said, with a smile.
The Pride is now one of just six teams in the entire nation still playing volleyball. USC and UC Santa Barbara will battle for the MPSF title on Saturday, while Ohio State and Loyola-Chicago will clash for the MIVA crown.
All-American Alberto Bravo registered a career-high 26 kills to pace Springfield, but it was the Pride's middle hitters that Mason didn't have an answer for. All-American Greg Falcone posted 14 kills on 20-errorless attempts, while Division III National Player of the Year Cal Palumbo added 13 kills on 17-errorless swings. Falcone and Bravo each tallied seven blocks apiece.
Mike Becker recorded 60 assists while directing Springfield to a .413 hitting percentage. He also added a career-high seven kills as he led the Pride's attack to a .400 hitting percentage for the fourth time in its last five matches. All-American Nick Ferry finished with a match-high 11 digs.
Springfield trailed 23-21 in the opening set, but reeled off the final four points to take the opening set. Alistair Matthews tallied an ace at 23-all to put Springfield in the lead for good before a GMU attack error gave Springfield a 25-23 win.
The second set featured 16 ties, the last coming after Mason evened the set at 26-all. Becker converted for a kill to give Springfield a 27-26 lead, and Palumbo pounded out his fifth kill of the frame as Springfield opened up a 2-0 lead.
It appeared as though the Pride would complete its sweep as it led 24-23 after rallying from a 20-17 hole. Springfield used 7-4 run capped off by consecutive blocks by Falcone and Bravo to claw back into the set. However, a kill from Jones and back-to-back terminations by Lucas allowed Mason to win its first set of the evening.
After the Patriots scored the first point of the fourth, kills from Becker and Palumbo, coupled with two by Bravo, gave Springfield a 4-1 lead and forced Mason into a timeout. The Patriots battled back to even things at 14 all, only to have Springfield pour on a 5-2 run to take control of the match, as Bravo and Falcone each notched on a pair of kills. Falcone later connected on his 14th kill on match point as Springfield claimed its historic victory.