Springfield wins first national title
The Pride sweep Carthage to capture inaugural championship
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Led by Most Outstanding Player Mike Pelletier, Springfield won the inaugural NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship by defeating Carthage 3-0 on Sunday. Set scores were 25-21, 25-23, 25-16.
Springfield ends its season with 21 wins in a row, and with an overall record of 33-5 Carthage finished at 29-6. Springfield also finished with an 18-0 record at home.
It was the first time these two teams met this season.
Springfield hit .412 as a team, while Carthage hit a very respectable .299.
Pelletier, a junior outside hitter from Burnt Hills, N.Y., was named the MOP of the championship tournament. In Sunday's match, he had a match-high-tying 10 kills, along with a team-high seven digs. He also had three blocks along with a .208 hitting percentage.
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In addition, freshman outside hitter Angel Perez also had 10 kills, along with five digs and a .474 hitting percentage. Junior middle blocker Greg Falcone also performed exceptionally well with a .667 hitting percentage. He finished with nine kills and had only one error in 12 swings. Freshman setter Keaton Pieper finished with 35 set assists.
Also, sophomore middle blocker Jimmy O'Leary had seven kills, and hit .500, And junior opposite Alistair Matthews finished with six kills, hitting .385. Sophomore libero Nick Ferry ended with five digs.
The Pride played just seven people, its fewest of the year.
For Carthage, sophomore Pat Barry also finished with a match-high-tying 10 kills. He had four errors in 25 swings. Senior outside hitter Randy Hansen had eight kills and a match-high 10 digs. Finishing with six kills each were senior middle blocker Matt Yanz (hitting .545) and senior middle blocker Tyler Frings. Frings hit .455.
Sophomore setter Connor Wexter had 32 set assists in the three sets.
It was the top two hitting teams in the country which came out on fire to start the national championship contest, connecting on 13 of the first 18 swings combined. It was a true back and forth battle to start, but the top-seeded Pride gained a three-point lead after a Pieper ace made it 12-9 midway through the first game. The ace prompted a Carthage timeout.
But the Red Men recovered quickly. Three consecutive Barry kills pulled the Red Men even at 13 apiece. From there, the Pride regained control of the set, as Falcone and Perez notched kills and O’Leary and Matthews registered service aces to put Springfield squarely ahead at 18-14.
Carthage used another timeout to regroup. The two teams traded points the rest of the set. A huge dig from Ferry kept a rally alive for the Pride, and they took full advantage as Perez finished it with a kill. A Barry service error gave the hosts the first set, 25-21. Barry finished with five kills and Hansen added four kills and 9 digs, but Springfield used a balanced attack and timely kills to gain the one set advantage.
The second set started similarly to the first, with Carthage and Springfield trading points to 10-all. The Pride got some separation in the middle part of the set, as Falcone got two of his four kills in the set in a three-point stretch for the hosts, making it 13-11. After trading points to 16-14, Springfield used a 4-1 run to get to 20-15 and force a Carthage timeout.
Coming out of the break, the Pride stretched the lead to six at 23-17, but the Red Men responded. Frings and Barry teamed up for a block on Pelletier to make it 24-21 late in the set. The Red Men would get as close as 24-23, but Barry’s attack error at set point halted the comeback attempt and gave Springfield a 25-23 second set win. The Pride hit just .231 in the game, but held Carthage to .185 on the other end. Pelletier added four kills to match Falcone’s total, and O’Leary chipped in with two more.
With the championship within its reach, the Pride continued their great performance into the third set. Tied 6-6 early on in the third, Springfield ripped off a 9-3 spurt that included six kills to gain complete control of the Championship. After the media timeout, the Red Men started to press but couldn’t get any momentum going. A Perez kill off a Pieper set made it 20-11 and the home crowd could sense the victory. After a mini Carthage run, Pieper set up Perez one more time, with his strike resounding through the arena and garnering the largest ovation of the match. From there, Falcone and O’Leary kills made it 24-16 with Pieper serving for the win. With the crowd on its feet, Pieper set Alistair Matthews one last time, with Matthews’ kill propelling Springfield to the inaugural NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship.