SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Springfield, host and top seed, opened the NCAA Championship with a 3-0 quarterfinal victory against Baruch on Friday at SC’s Blake Arena. Set scores were 25-12, 25-16, 25-17.
With the victory, Springfield lifts its record to 31-5, while Baruch ends its season at 24-17. It was the third time this season the Pride has beaten the Bearcats. As a result, Springfield will move on to play either Hunter or Kean on Saturday.
Springfield has won 19 matches in a row, and 29 of its last 30.
As a team, SC hit a stellar .537. Baruch managed a hitting percentage of .103.
The Pride was led by junior Mike Pelletier who finished with a match-high 13 kills. Five of those kills came in the first set, which SC dominated. He also had three blocks and a service ace, and hit .409 as an individual.
Freshman outside hitter Angel Perez and sophomore middle blocker Jimmy O’Leary both played errorless ball. Perez, who on Thursday was named AVCA Division III Newcomer of the Year, had six kills in 12 swings, hitting .500. O’Leary was even better with seven kills in nine swings for a .778 percentage.
Junior middle blocker Greg Falcone, named an AVCA First Team All-American, had eight kills and just one error in nine attempts for an .889 percentage.
For Baruch, sophomore middle blocker Steven Coniglio led the Bearcats with nine kills and a .667 hitting percentage. He also had one block. Sophomore middle blocker Jack McKee also had nine kills, three digs, and one block.
Springfield jumped out to a 5-0 lead, punctuated by a triple block by Perez, Falcone, and freshman setter Keaton Pieper. The Bearcats put an end to the run and the set went back and forth until a Falcone ace put the Pride up 10-3 and forced an early Baruch timeout.
Baruch traded kills with the Pride to bring the Springfield lead to 15-8 before a 5-1 run for the hosts forced a second Bearcat timeout with the score now 20-9. Kills by seniior middle blocker Vincent Cruz and McKee gave Baruch a mini-burst, but Springfield finished the first set with an Alistair Matthews kill from Pieper to take game one 25-12. Springfield dominated the first frame with a .684 team hitting percentage compared to just .136 for the eighth-seeded Bearcats.
The second set started more evenly for the two teams, as early McKee and Coniglio kills kept Baruch close at 7-5. After Springfield pushed the lead to 9-5 behind a huge solo block from Pelletier, the Bearcats used back to back McKee strikes and a Matthews attack error to get within one at 10-9 and force Springfield Coach Sullivan to call his first timeout.
The Pride responded out of the break by pushing the lead to five at 17-12. Coniglio and McKee added another kill each to keep Baruch close at 18-14, but Matthews responded with a kill of his own and the Pride added a service ace to reach the 20-point barrier at 20-14 and prompt a Bearcat timeout. Three Baruch errors extended the Pride advantage to 24-16, and Pelletier capped off the second game with his eighth kill of the match as Springfield earned a 2-0 lead heading into the third set.
Both right sides put up five kills in the second game, with Matthews hitting .571 for the Pride and McKee hitting .364 for the Bearcats.
Baruch saved its best start of the match for the third set, coming out to a 4-3 advantage early on. But the Pride responded quickly with 9-2 spurt that put them up 12-6 midway through the set, capped off by a big block by Pieper and Falcone to force a Bearcat timeout. A Pieper kill, a duel block by Pieper and Falcone, and another Pelletier strike gave the Pride a 22-15 edge as Baruch called timeout again. The Bearcats were able to earn two more points, but Pelletier put the game and match away with his 13th kill of the afternoon.