University Park, Pa. - April 29, 2010 - The Springfield College men's volleyball team's season came to a close on Thursday evening as it fell to Penn State in three games in the semifinals of the EIVA Tournament. The Nittany Lions advanced to Saturday's championship match against Princeton by winning with the set scores of 30-21, 30-21, 30-27.
Springfield ends its remarkable season with a 20-11 record. This season, the Pride reached the EIVA Tournament semifinals for the first time in program history as a Division III team and won its sixth Molten Division III Invitational National Championship.
"This season has been such a great ride and I am so proud of the guys," said head coach Charlie Sullivan. "This has been one of the most satisfying seasons of my coaching career. This group of seniors has been exceptional and set the bar in terms of leadership, dedication, and committment. Although they are leaving, they have put this program in a really great place."
The Pride, which had played such terrific defense in its last three matches, managed just 10 digs in the match and failed to record a block until three quarters of the way through the second game.
AJ Nally concluded his illustrious career with 12 kills, five digs, and two blocks, while Cal Palumbo recorded 10 kills at a .643 clip. Alberto Bravo chipped in with 12 kills of his own, and Eric Shoemaker wrapped up his standout career with 38 assists.
For Penn State, Joe Sunder was the difference as he pounded out 15 kills at an incredible .789 percentage. Will Price added 13 kills, while both Ryan Wolf and Max Lipsitz each registered 12 kills. Dennis Del Valle finished with a match-high nine digs and Edgardo Goas dished out 47 assists for the hosts.
The Nittany Lions were dominant in the opening frame as it hit .625 as a team, pounding out 18 kills on 24 swings. Springfield opens up a 8-6 lead after a Penn State service error early in the opening set. However, the Nittany Lions responded with a 12-6 run, capped off by a Price kill in transition to force a Springfield timeout with the score 18-14 in favor of the hosts. Things didn’t get much better for the Pride as it found itself down seven, 22-15, after an SC attack error down the line. Lipsitz produced his sixth kill of the set on his sixth swing to give Penn State a 30-21 first set victory. Palumbo tallied four kills on all four of his swings to pace Springfield in the opening game. The Pride didn’t help itself out any as it committed seven service errors in the game.
Penn State served the visiting Pride tough in the second game as it was able to take advantage of a handful of overpass kills. A back row kill by Nally after a long rally cut Penn State’s lead to four, 11-7, only to have the hosts reel off the next two points on kills by Lipsitz and Wolf to force a Springfield timeout. Out the break, Wolf smashed another overpass kill to make it a 14-7 contest. Wolf forced SC’s second timeout of the stanza after he snuffed out a Shoemaker attempted kill to give the hosts a 19-11 lead. After Penn State’s lead grew to as much as nine, Nally and Palumbo combined for SC’s first block of the match to make it 26-19. Penn State went on to take a two-set advantage after Sunder smashed a kill out of the back row as the hosts won the another 30-21 game.
After Springfield grabbed an early 3-2 lead, Penn State responded with three straight points to take a 5-3 lead. However, Springfield showed some grit as it poured on a 7-2 spurt to gain a 10-7 lead and force Penn State to call its first time out of the match. SC didn’t stop there as it scored the next two points, capped off by a Mike Pelletier and Greg Falcone block, to own a 12-7 lead. After Penn State responded to tie the set at 14 on a Sunder kill off the block, Nally recorded a solo block on Goas to give the visitors a 16-14 advantage. Using Del Valle’s defense as a catalyst for its offense, Penn State used a 4-1 run to go up 18-17 and force SC into a timeout. Back-to-back Palumbo kills out of the break allowed SC to take a 19-18 lead, only to have PSU pour on three straight points to regain a 21-19 lead. Nally refused to go away quietly as he hammered a kill to bring SC within one at 27-26, but Price finished off the match with a kill for the hosts.