Huntingdon, Pa. - February 18, 2011 - For the first time since 2007, the Springfield College men's volleyball team swept rival Juniata College, 3-0, in a battle of two of the top teams in Division III on Friday evening. The Pride cruised to the critical win in the set scores of 25-22, 25-23, 25-18.
Springfield, which fell from the top spot in this week's national poll into a tie for fourth, had its four match losing streak and now stands at 4-9 this season. The Eagles moved up into a tie for first this week and now drop to 10-5.
The Eagles and Pride have dominated Division III volleyball over the past decade. In fact, one of these schools has won every Molten Division III National Championship, with each program winning five times.
The last time the Pride won in three sets in Juniata was on April 7, 2007 when Springfield bested the host Eagles in the EIVA Division III Championship.
In fitting fashion, Springfield put together its top offensive performance of the season, hitting .412 as a team. Alberto Bravo was dominant with 15 kills at a .417 clip, while Cal Palumbo connected for eight kills on 10 swings. Tommy Crow was especially effective with eight kills, eight digs, and two aces, and Mike Becker delivered 38 assists to pace Springfield to the win. Nick Ferry also chipped in a team-best nine digs. Springfield once again struggled with its serve, racking up 17 service errors on the evening.
The Eagles hit just .185 for the match, putting down just 29 kills on 81 swings with 14 errors. Senior outside hitter Chris Vrooman paced Juniata with 10 kills on 19 attacks for a .421 hitting percentage, with a pair of blocks and five digs. Junior Mike Kraft picked up six kills on 17 attacks, but also had three errors for a .176 attack clip, while Juniata middle Ben Wolff had some success through the middle, putting down three kills on nine error-free swings for a .333 attack rate. He also had a hand on four of Juniata's 9.0 blocks.
A four-point run midway through the first set vaulted Springfield into a 15-12 lead, and the Pride maintained a lead the rest of the way. After Juniata chipped a pair of points of the Springfield lead with a Ross Madden kill and a Springfield attack error, the Pride rattled off three straight points to take a 18-14 advantage. Springfield eventually posted a 23-18 lead when Juniata began to narrow the gap on a pair of blocks and a Pride attack error. A Bravo kill put the Pride on set point, and following a side-out kill by Kraft, a Palumbo kill clinched the set.
Set two was similar to the first, as Springfield eked out a narrow lead and outlasted Juniata down the stretch. With Springfield leading 21-20, an Alex McColgin service error allowed the Pride to stretch their lead to 22-20. A Crow kill led to a 23-20 Pride lead, but a point awarded to Juniata cut the margin to 23-21. Palumbo's kill off the ensuing Vrooman serve put the Pride on set point, and three points later Bravo sealed the win with a kill. Springfield's offense dominated the set as it did not record an error as it posted 18 kills on 27 swings.
A five-point run early in set three allowed Springfield to take a 12-8 lead. A three-point run and a four-point run later in the set gave the Pride a 20-15 advantage, and back-to-back side-out kills advanced the score to 21-16. Kills by Springfield's Mike Pelletier and Becker gave the Pride a 23-16 lead, and consecutive side-out service errors had Springfield on match point. Two points later, a Juniata service error allowed the Pride to take the match.
Springfield will continue its swing through Pennsylvania as it battles St. Francis in an important EIVA Tait Conference match at 4:00 pm on Saturday.