For the second-straight season, the Springfield College men's volleyball team won the NCAA Division III National Championship after cruising past Stevens in straight sets on Saturday night in Tarble Arena on the campus of Carthage College. The Pride won by the scores of 25-20, 25-14, 25-9.
Playing in a Division III National Championship for the ninth-consecutive season, Springfield wrapped up the year with a 31-2 record, including a perfect 29-0 mark against Division III opponents. Today's match proved to be a rematch of the 2015 NCAA Division III Championship, as the Pride has now captured 11 Division III national championships, including winning five NCAA Division III Championships after claiming the crown in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017.
Mike Neary (Ventura, Calif.) was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Championship as he handed out 38 assists in leading the Pride to a .351 hitting percentage. Eli Irizarry Pares (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Sean Zuvich (San Pedro, Calif.) were also named to the All-Championship Team, as Irizarry Pares collected 13 digs in leading the Springfield defense, while Zuvich concluded a remarkable tournament with 10 digs and five kills. Appearing in the starting lineup for the first time since March 31, Ricardo Padilla Ayala (San Juan, Puerto Rico) put together a special final game in a Springfield jersey, totaling 12 kills at a .375 clip, while the 2018 AVCA Division III National Player of the Year, Sergio Figueroa Velez (San Juan, Puerto Rico) registered a match-high 13 kills to go along with seven digs and a pair of aces. Joseth Irizarry Feliciano (Adjuntas, Puerto Rico) totaled seven kills and three blocks in the middle and fellow middle Kyle Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) turned in six kills, hitting .625. The Pride's defense finished the night with 47 digs, the most in a three-set match this season.
Stevens jumped out to a 7-4 lead following the Pride's first attack error of the match, but Springfield would respond with four-straight points, as Figueroa Velez crafted a kill around the block. Springfield would force Stevens into their first timeout of the evening at 11-8 when Irizarry Feliciano and Zuvich teammed up for a stuff block on the pin, and the Pride would gain a 16-12 edge when Jasuta converted in the middle. Stevens would whistle for their second timeout at 22-15 after their sixth attack error of the frame, and Springfield would earn a 25-20 victory after Figueroa crushed his fifth kill of the frame. The Pride hit at a .345 clip in the opener and limited the Ducks to a .083 hitting percentage, with four Springfield players having at least three kills.
The Pride stormed out to a 3-0 advantage after Figueroa Velez delivered a kill out of the back row, only to have Stevens answer right back with three-straight points of their own. A 6-3 spurt by Springfield, capped off by a kill from Irizarry Feliciano built the lead to 9-6, but the Ducks would respond again to tie the frame at 11-11. The Pride would then hit its stride, putting together a remarkable 14-3 surge, with Figueroa Velez delivering five kills in the burst, including his 11th kill of the night which completed the 25-14 win. Springfield produced 18 kills at a .405 clip in the stanza, while holding the Ducks to a .054 percentage.
Holding a 7-5 lead in the third set, Springfield put the match away with an tremendous 11-1 burst that was keyed by an outstanding effort from the end by Figueroa Velez. It was a dominant final set for the Pride, as they suffocated Stevens to a -.067 hitting percentage, and claimed the title after Stevens committed their ninth service error of the night.