The Springfield College men’s volleyball team began their second-consecutive national championship season with a sweep of the Division I Cal Baptist team on January 19. Three months later, on April 28, after winning their last 25 matches (all but eight of which they won in straight sets), the Pride defeated Nazareth College on Naz’s home court for their eighth Division III national championship title in 15 years.
Despite the last minute change to a new host school, fans packed Kidera Gymnasium for the semis and the finals. (The tournament was scheduled to take place on MIT’s campus, but due to the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt and death of the MIT police officer that followed, the NCAA chose to relocate to Nazareth in Rochester, N.Y.) Springfield even bused student fans from their campus in Western Massachusetts. The two teams in the final had not played each other in the regular season but were ranked No. 1 and 2 in the final DIII coaches’ poll of the season.
Springfield seniors Mike Pelletier and Greg Falcone, along with the freshman standout from Puerto Rico, Luis Vega, accumulated the kills that allowed their squad to beat the previously 36-1 Nazareth Golden Flyers. Vega and Pelletier had 13 each, earning Vega the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honor, and Falcone, the 6'8" middle blocker, contributed seven kills and three blocks. Overall, the Pride hit .382 and held the Golden Flyers to a .133 clip.
Even though his team failed to win the championship match, Nazareth’s senior setter EJ Wells-Spicer, the AVCA Division III National Player of the Year, had something to celebrate. With his 18 assists in the match, he broke the school’s all-time career assist record. The previous assist leader, Frank Leahy had 4,753; Wells-Spicer finished the season with 4,762.
To advance to the finals, Springfield played Kean in the quarterfinals – sweeping the university based out of Union, N.J., in straight sets – and Baruch in the semis, which gave a bit more of a fight, taking the Pride to five sets. Springfield pulled out the win in the fifth by only two points, overcoming the 21 service errors they accumulated throughout the match.
Nazareth’s path to the championship match took them through UC Santa Cruz and Rivier College, both of which they defeated in consecutive sets.
AVCA MEN’S DIVISION III
Joe Bortak | Juniata | MB
Brendan Chang | MIT | DS
Greg Falcone | Springfield | MB
Tim Ferriter | SUNY New Paltz | OH
Robert Kraft | Nazareth | OH
Salvatore La Cavera III | UC Santa Cruz | OH
Luke Lawatsch | Nazareth | MB
Mike Pelletier | Springfield | OH
EJ Wells-Spicer | Nazareth | S
Connor Wexter | Carthage | S
AVCA MEN’S DIVISION III
Aaron Almario | Rivier | MB
Steven Coniglio | Baruch | MB
Matthew Elgin | Vassar | MB
Matt Hohenberger | MIT | OH
Paul Kuhn | Juniata | OH
Jimmy O’Leary | Springfield | MB
Mauro Salinas | UC Santa Cruz | L
Jon Storm | Carthage | OH
Steve Vahalla | Kean | OH
Tim Zyburt | Nazareth | OH
Originally published in July 2013