Springfield, Mass. - April 24, 2010 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team's dream season continued on Saturday afternoon as it defeated St. Francis, 3-1, in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Division I Tournament. The Pride was victorious by the game scores of 31-29, 27-30, 30-22, 30-25.
The Pride will now move on to the EIVA Tournament semifinals where it will travel to take on Penn State on Thursday evening. Since Springfield turned Division III in 1995-96, this marks the first time in program history that the Pride has advanced to the EIVA Tournament semifinals.
Springfield, which is ranked the top team in Division III after winning the Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball National Championship last weekend, improves to 20-11. The Red Flash's season comes to an end with a 12-15 mark.
The senior duo of AJ Nally and Eric Shoemaker went out in style in their final game in Blake Arena as they both had arguably the finest matches of their career in the landmark win. Nally recorded match-highs in both kills and digs as he had a season-high of 24 kills to go along with an incredible 23 digs. Shoemaker was equally as impressive as he delivered 59 assists and was a stalwart on defense, posting 22 digs.
"AJ and Eric were exceptional tonight," said head coach Charlie Sullivan. "Tonight their four years of hard work and leadership in our program was on display in this historic win. This is another great celebration of the hard work that our team has put in all season."
The crowd of 818 fans was treated to some great volleyball, especially on the defensive side of the ball as Springfield posted 82 digs in four games, compared to just 47 by St. Francis. In fact, Nally and Shoemaker combined for 45, nearly the entire total for the visitors. As a team, SC tallied 13.5 team blocks, while the Red Flash finished with 11.5 stuffs.
Alberto Bravo continued his hot play as he posted 17 kills and nine digs, while Cal Palumbo added 11 kills, hitting .529, to go along with six blocks. Alex Harrison was tremendous on defense, totaling 15 digs, and Greg Falcone recorded seven kills and six blocks for the Pride. Mike Pelletier was steady all night as he registered nine digs, eight kills, and two blocks.
St. Francis was led by three players with double-figure kills as Nick Rivett notched a team-best 17 kills. Pete Freyer added 12, while Jordan Varee posted 11 kills, nine digs, and six blocks. John Wappler registered a team-best 13 digs, while Ryan Williams dished out 45 assists.
The opening set featured 18 ties as both teams were back and forth from the opening whistle. The Pride began upping the ante, building its lead to as high as three points with a 15-12 score after a Nally kill. Bravo banged home a kill to give SC a 23-21 advantage, only to have the Red Flash reel off three-straight points, capped off by a Rivett kill. That gave St. Francis a 24-23 lead and forced a Springfield timeout. Facing set point at 29-28, Nally came through with a big kill, and a Varee error made it 30-29 in favor of the Pride. Shoemaker didn't disappoint as he made an incredibly athletic play to win a joust over Freyer and give the hosts a one-game lead.
Springfield was on fire to begin the second set, opening up a 5-1 lead as the Pride totaled five kills on its first six swings. The barrage from the Pride continued until Saint Francis head coach Mike Rumbaugh called timeout trailing 7-2. After those nine points, Springfield was hitting .556, while the Red Flash were stuck at .000. However, the Flash responded with a 6-2 run that pulled them to within 9-8. A long rally which ultimately ended on a Bravo kill, featured some incredible defense from the Pride, including a pair of great digs by Shoemaker. That prompted Rumbaugh to use his second timeout of the set. The Pride continued to roll and appeared to be in control as a Palumbo kill put the hosts up 18-13. St. Francis stormed back with five-straight points, as Rivett posted a pair of aces and a kill to force an SC timeout. SC went to Palumbo once again to even the set at 26 with a kill, only to have three consecutive Springfield errors hand the Red Flash set point. Varee closed out the set with a kill down the line to even the match at a game apiece.
In set #3, SC raced out to a 5-2 lead as the Pride's defense continued to dictate the match. Springfield continued to pile it on, pushing the lead to 9-4 after a Palumbo and Nally double block. After Williams' attempted dump kill was pancaked and led to a nearly-identical Shoemaker dump for a Pride point, Rumbaugh was forced to call a timeout with his team trailing 11-5. Bravo bounced a ball down the line after hitting over the Red Flash block as Springfield's lead grew to 16-7, forcing another visitor timeout. A Nally kill gave the hosts an eight-point cushion at 23-15, but St. Francis answered with a 5-1 run, capped off by a Varee ace to make it 24-20. Nally stopped the bleeding with two kills and Palumbo added a solo block as Springfield opened up a 27-20 advantage. Palumbo pounded home a kill in transition as the hosts took a 2-1 set advantage after winning the third, 30-22.
Neither team could snag much of an advantage in the fourth until back-to-back Nally kills provided Springfield with a 14-12 lead. St. Francis would not go away as Patrick McManamon and Rivett combined for a block to highlight a 3-0 spurt which evened the set at 17-all. Springfield then rattled off a 7-3 run, highlighted by Nally muscling down an overpass kill to force a St. Francis timeout with the score 24-20. Varee recorded a solo block on Nally to bring the Red Flash to within three at 28-25. But Palumbo notched his 12th kill of the match to bring SC to within one point of victory. Thanks to a four-touch violation by the Flash, Springfield won the fourth 30-25, and advanced to take on the Nittany Lions next week.