Fullerton, Calif. - January 17, 2014 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team dropped its season-opener to Hope International on Friday evening by the set scores of 25-20, 25-19, 17-25, 25-21. Angel Perez (Naranjito, Puerto Rico) had a standout match in his return for the Pride, posting 11 kills at a .500 clip.
Hope International is not affiliated with the NCAA, but instead competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Royals improved to 2-0 on the year.
The Pride, which has had the highest team hitting percentage in each of the past two seasons in Division III, struggled offensively, hitting just .172 for the match. The Pride's errors proved costly throughout the night, as between hitting and service errors, Springfield gave away 38 points, including 15 in the opening frame.
Playing in his first match since the 2012 NCAA Division III National Championship, Perez entered midway through the second set and provided a great spark as he had his way on the pin. Luis Vega (Corozal, Puerto Rico) matched Perez with a team-high 11 kills, while Jimmy O'Leary (Reading, Pa.) totaled 10 kills and six blocks for the Pride. Keaton Pieper (Dallas, Texas) directed the offense with 38 assists and five blocks, and Nick Ferry (Valencia, Calif.) was credited with 10 digs.
Springfield jumped out to a strong start to begin the match, using a Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) ace to earn an early 5-1 advantage. The Royals settled in, benefiting from four Springfield attack errors to answer with 8-1 run, ultimately gaining a 9-6 cushion. Ryan Lilley (Stony Brook, N.Y.) got Springfield within 13-11 on an ace of his own, only to have the hosts score seven unanswered points to take a stronghold of the match at 20-11. The Pride didn't back down, cutting the Royals lead to 23-19 on a block from Pieper and Jason Mascoe (Uniondale, N.Y.), only to eventually trade points as HIU took the first set, 25-21.
O'Leary connected out of middle for Springfield to keep things close in the second, with the Pride trailing 11-9 in the early going. Hope International answered back with three-straight points, using consecutive Springfield hitting errors to push its lead to 14-9. Despite trailing by as many as six, Springfield battled back once again, using a Vega ace and Perez kill to force the hosts into timeout at 22-19. Out of the break, the Royals scored the final three points to take the second set, 25-19.
After falling behind 7-4, Springfield put together a great burst to seize a 10-8 lead following a solo stuff from Pieper. Springfield's lead eventually grew to 15-12 as O'Leary teammed up with Trevor Mattson (Redlands, Calif.) to force HIU into another timeout. The Pride continued to find its rhythm and dictated the third set, extending its cushion to 21-14 after O'Leary, Pieper, and Vega combined for the stuff. The hosts got as close as 22-17, but a Vega kill, Pieper ace, and a Mattson and Mascoe block sealed the Pride's first set win the 2014 season.
After a back-and-forth start to the fourth, the Royals opened up an 8-4 advantage, only to have Springfield grind out a 4-1 run to make it a 9-8 contest. HIU would eventually open up a 16-12 lead, but as they had all match, Springfield battled back with a 4-1 push to make it a 17-16 contest and force the hosts into a timeout. Trailing 21-20, Springfield surrendered the next three points, and despite a backrow kill from Perez, HIU put the match away with another Buchanan kill to compete the match.
Springfield will play a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, beginning at 12:00 pm PST. The Pride will take on defending NAIA national champion, Concordia-Irvine, before battling a Division I squad in Grand Canyon University at 3:00 pm.