Men’s Volleyball Defeats Top-Ranked Springfield College
The UC Santa Cruz men’s volleyball team had nothing but smiles on as they were cheered off the court in the “Slug Dome” after an impressive 3-0 victory over Springfield College on Saturday, January 16.
The Banana Slugs’ opponent, the Springfield Pride, was ranked second among Division III schools before the start of this game, just slightly better than UCSC’s third-place standing in the country. However, it was UCSC who came out on top.
“I think we definitely get the home crowd advantage here in the Slug Dome,” said assistant head coach Todd Hollenbeck with a laugh. “This is the first time we have ever played against Springfield, and they are ranked two or three and are one of our top competitors. … We were definitely gunning for them.”
The Slugs were dominant in the first set, despite the fact that the Springfield front line towered over most of the men on UCSC’s team. However, the Slugs’ own big man, junior middle blocker Rick Schroeder, held strong in the center, coming up with huge blocks for the team as UCSC easily took the first set 30-24.
Cheers ran throughout the crowd as the Slugs came back on the floor with what was to be a different second set. The two teams went back and forth early on, with Springfield able to take an early 7-6 lead due to some misplays by Santa Cruz, but UCSC was able to put the pressure on and eventually surged ahead 15-11. Perhaps this was thanks to support from the crowd, which cheered loudly and taunted Springfield with chants of “Overrated!” Although Springfield was able to come back and tie it again at 23-23, the Slugs stormed them and eventually finished off the set 30-25, which allowed them to take a 2-0 lead on Springfield.
At this, the crowd was ecstatic and on the edge of their seats, hoping to watch the Slugs finish off their opponent in the third set. Although the third set saw Springfield take an early 10-6 lead, the Slugs were able to get some lucky calls and tie it up 13-13, then took the lead back at 14-13, which put the pressure on Springfield and caused them to call another timeout. From there the Slugs didn’t look back, and although their opponent fought back to come within two, UCSC kept their composure late and finished off the third set 30-28 to win the game.
“It was an excellent win tonight. We did a really great job getting the ball to our pin hitters and controlling the middle of the court,” head coach Jonah Carson said. “This is a very important win for us in terms of Division III volleyball, so the team deserves to enjoy every minute of it.”
Senior outside hitter Justin Lam, who had 10 kills and 10 digs for the night, was equally enthusiastic about the team’s win and credited Springfield for not backing down.
“I think that Springfield just kept coming back [because] they were not ready to give up, but we were able to preserve and keep up the pressure and the lead,” Lam said. “They were ranked higher than us, so it’s a good statement for us as a team, just to prove to ourselves that we can take down a team that has a lot of talent and are strong competitors.”
Assistant head coach Hollenbeck said that this was a statement game, which shows other teams in Division III volleyball that UC Santa Cruz should be recognized for their talent.
“We’re not just some random team on the West Coast,” he said. “… We are a team that can compete with the best and should be reckoned with.”