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Springfield Athletics | January 24, 2014

DIII: Top-ranked Springfield sweeps Lasell in home-opening match

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Springfield hit .500 on Thursday as it cruised past visiting Lasell in front of 800 fans at Blake Arena on Thursday evening.

For the Pride, it was its first match against a Division III opponent this season as it improves to 1-3. It was Lasell's season opener and they dropped to 0-1. Springfield is currently ranked No. 1 in the latest AVCA Division III National Poll.

In the first meeting between the two schools, the two-time defending NCAA Division III national champions had a strong overall performance, connecting for 36 kills on 58 swings, making just seven errors, while also registering 10 aces and 8.5 team blocks.

Luis Vega posted a match-high nine kills to go along with five digs and three blocks, while Ryan Malone added eight kills at a .545 clip. In the middle, Jimmy O'Leary was 7-for-7 and recorded four aces and a trio of blocks. Keaton Pieper and Luis Garcia Rubio combined for 29 assists.

For Lasell, Jeff Vautrin provided a team-best seven kills on the night. The Lasers were limited to just a .017 hitting percentage, as both Matthew Dugan and Andrew Glenn were credited with seven assists each.

With the score tied at two-all in the first, a solo block from O'Leary capped off a 6-1 burst for the Pride as it opened up an 8-3 cushion. After three consecutive Springfield attack errors made it a 17-11 contest, Vega hammered a ball out of the back row to force the Lasers into a timeout. A Malone kill and double block from Pieper and O'Leary pushed the lead to nine, and the Pride would take the first set, 25-17, on Vega's fifth kill in the early going.

After a sluggish offensive start to the second, Springfield heated up behind four kills in the frame from Malone. With the score 8-6 in favor of the hosts, Springfield reeled off 17 of the final 21 points in the frame to win 25-10. Both Vega and Eric Johnson powered the surge with terrific runs from the service line.

Springfield's offense found its rhythm in the third, hitting .706 with 12 kills on 17 errorless attacks. Lasell earned a 7-6 lead on a Drew Caruso kill, but three consecutive points from the Pride, including a kill and ace from Angel Perez, put Springfield up for good. O'Leary ripped three aces in the set, and Greg Woods provided a huge spark with four kills, including a monster swing from the back row in transition to complete the sweep.