Springfield, which is ranked No. 1 in the country again this week in the AVCA Division III Coaches Poll, improves to 13-3.
With both Springfield and MIT playing as independents, these matches are critical in determining who earns an at-large berth into this year's NCAA Division III Championship. These two squads will square off again in Springfield on April 13.
The win was highlighted by Greg Falcone's dominant blocking performance, as he totaled 10 block assists and a pair of solo stuffs. Falcone set the program mark of block assists for a career, as he now as 445 for his career.The previous record of 438 was held by former standout Andy Sipe, who played from 2006-2009.
Springfield opened the match by building an 8-4 advantage and maintained a comfortable cushion throughout the set as its lead grew to 16-11. MIT responded with a 7-2 spurt as a strike by junior Ken Siebert brought it within one. The Pride replied by scoring six of the next eight points with a service error giving it set point at 24-19. The Engineers stayed alive by recording the next two points, the last on a blast by senior Matt Hohenberger off the visitors’ block. However, Springfield Mike Pelletier thwarted the late rally with a kill of his own.
Like the first set, the Pride established an 8-4 margin in the second stanza but MIT battled back as a hitting error evened the score at 18. Springfield gained some breathing room courtesy of a pair of errors; however, back-to-back Hohenberger kills resulted in six unanswered points and a 24-20 lead. A block by senior Mike Becker and junior Jimmy O’Leary kept the Pride in the hunt; but a strike from sophomore Andrew Busse clinched the win for the hosts.
In the third set, Springfield turned a 5-5 deadlock into a 13-6 lead and never looked back as it cruised to a 25-15 victory. The Pride capitalized on solid hitting and blocking from Pelletier, O’Leary, and senior Greg Falcone to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth frame was closely played as a kill by Busse evened the score at 12. A solo block from Falcone led to a 4-1 spurt which was capped by a quick hit from Becker. An exchange of points ensued until MIT rattled off seven straight to go ahead, 23-19. A strike by Springfield senior Alistair Matthews ended the run; however, the Engineers used a Hohenberger kill and a Pride hitting error to force a decisive fifth set.
After trading serves to start the final frame, Springfield put together a 6-2 run with a Matthews kill giving it an 8-5 lead at the changeover. MIT battled back, using a kill from sophomore Alex Klein in addition to a kill and ace by senior Patrick Vatterott to tie the set at eight. The Pride countered by scoring four of the next five points as a block by O’Leary and sophomore Ryan Quesenberry put it in front, 12-10. The exchange of points resumed as a Pelletier strike off the MIT block resulted in match point. A kill from Hohenberger extended the set but a back-row hit from Pelletier secured the victory for Springfield.
Hohenberger finished with a team-high 23 kills as Busse generated 11 kills and a .647 hitting percentage. Siebert posted 11 kills while Vatterott registered seven digs and six kills. Junior Paul Syta tallied 48 assists, 20 digs, four kills, and two aces as freshman Brendan Chang collected 17 digs.
Falcone added 17 kills at a .624 clip to go along with his 12 blocks. Pelletier notched 22 kills, hitting .383, while adding four blocks and four digs. Nick Ferry had a dominant day defensively, posting 21 digs. Mike Becker directed the offense with 49 assists, helping the Pride hit .367 in the win.
The Pride will play again on Saturday when it hosts a tri-match with Vassar and Emmanuel starting at 2:00 pm in Dana Gymnasium.