Springfield, Mass. - February 4, 2012 -The Springfield College men’s volleyball breezed past both Johnson & Wales and Emmanuel in three sets in a tri-match on Saturday. The Pride first swept JWU, 25-18, 25-18, 25-8, before handling Emmanuel 25-15, 25-17, 25-16.
Springfield improved to 5-4 overall, including 4-0 against Division III teams.
Leading the way for the Pride against Johnson and Wales was middle Jimmy O’Leary, who continued his torrid start to the season with nine kills on 11 errorless swings, hitting .818 to go along with six blocks. Evan Acanfora produced eight kills, while Alistair Matthews added seven kills at a .500 clip. Mike Becker delivered 29 assists and Jordan Robinson chipped in with seven digs. The Pride finished with a season-best nine aces, including four from Jeff Gutmann. The Pride finished the match hitting .400.
For the visiting Wildcats, Josh Baker tallied seven kills at a .500 clip. while teammate Shawn Kennedy notched six kills, five of which came in the opening set. John Bosch handed out 18 assists in two sets and Patrick Robidoux racked up a team-best five digs. The Wildcats dropped to 1-2 with the loss as they hit .153 in the match.
Both teams were strong offensively in the first set, with the Pride hitting .500 and the Wildcats tallying a .346 hitting percentage. One of Kennedy's five kills in the game brought the visitors within three at 13-10, before Springfield scored four the sets next six points, including two big kills from Matthews, to force JWU into a timeout at 17-12. An ace out of the break from Gutmann and another kill from Acanfora gave Springfield a seven-point lead, which it would carry into a 25-18 victory following a big swing from Matthews.
As good as the offense was in the first, it was equally as sloppy in the second as both squads struggled to find any rhythm. JWU finished with a .087 attack percentage, compared to the Pride's .160. The Wildcats trailed by two, 8-6, before Springfield opened up a 6-1 burst, capped off by a block from Matthews and Mike Freytag as JWU burned its first timeout. The Wildcats battled back to get within one at 18-17 after a Springfield attack error out of timeout, but a kill from Becker on the next play gave Springfield a two-point lead it would not surrender. From there, the Pride heated up from the service line, and Becker closed out the set with two-straight aces.
The Pride put forth a dominant showing in the third, hitting .611, as it took the set 25-8. O'Leary registered five kills on six swings, while Acanfora recorded three kills. Springfield led 13-6 before Ryan Lilley powered a 9-0 run from the service line, highlighted by consecutive aces, to give the Pride commanding 22-6 lead. O'Leary eventually closed out the stanza with his match-high ninth kill, completing the sweep.
In the nightcap against Emmanuel, Springfield controlled the match from the opening whistle and hit .479 while using a very balanced attack. The match marked the second time in the past four days that Springfield and Emmanuel had squared off, as the Pride swept the Saints on Wednesday.
Angel Perez finished with a match-high 10 kills, while adding five digs and two solo blocks. John Coen had his best match of the early season, totaling nine kills at a .438 clip to go along with nine digs. Keaton Pieper registered a double-double with 35 assists and 10 digs and Mike Pelletier recorded eight kills, seven digs, five aces, and three blocks. Springfield's middle hitters were especially dominant as Greg Falcone and O'Leary combined for 14 kills while hitting .813.
For the Saints, Zach Whitermore tallied a team-best eight kills and Ashanti Jackson chipped in with six. Nick Updike directed the offense with 21 assists and Tom McCaffrey posted two blocks.
Springfield set the tone early in the first, grabbing an early 4-0 lead as it got kills from Perez and Coen and a pair of aces from Falcone. Emmanuel used a kill from Whitermore to get within three at 6-3, which would prove to be as close as they would get in the stanza. The Saints had no answer for Springfield’s offense, which hit .600 in the frame. The Pride led by as much as 10 on six occasions, the last coming at the final 25-15 count.
The Pride hit .600 for the second-straight frame, led by Falcone’s four kills. Trailing 2-1 early, Springfield went on a 5-0 run, capped off by a Pelletier kill to take a 6-2 lead. A Springfield service error made it a 10-7 contest in favored of the hosts, but Pelletier put the set out of reach with a big service run which included two aces to put the Pride up 14-8. Perez ended the frame with a huge swing from the left side to give Springfield a 25-17 win.
The third and final set featured seven ties and three lead changes as the Saints withstood the Pride's offensive pressure much better. Emmanuel held an early 9-8 advantage after a big swing from Whitermore, however, Springfield answered with a big run of their own. Using a kill from Coen to ignite a 9-0 spurt, Springfield put the game out of reach by taking a 16-9 lead. Pelletier had three aces in the run, while Perez provided two kills and a solo block. Another kill from Perez at 22-12 extended the hosts lead to 10 and Falcone put the final touches on the three-game sweep with his eighth kill of the evening.
Springfield will next play on Wednesday evening when it hosts 6th-ranked MIT at 7:00 pm. NCAA.com has the match rated as one of the top-10 Division III men’s volleyball matches to watch this season.