If you were at Blake Arena yesterday following the 3-0 sweep of Stevens Institute, you heard the clear chants of “We want New Paltz” from the Maroon Crew. The Springfield students’ wishes were answered, as the Pride is set to take on the SUNY New Paltz Hawks at 4pm today in the 2017 NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball Championship. In addition to the weight of the matches name, there will be a lot riding on this game in relation to the two program’s history books.
Springfield has collected a massive haul of championship hardware since the program entered Division III competition in the 1990s. The Pride has claimed nine national championships, the most recent reign coming between 2012 and 2014, when they ran a three peat. Springfield has not been absent from the national title game in almost a decade. But recently, the championship match has consisted of more heartbreak than jubilation for the Pride. The team fell to Stevens in 2015, and, more importantly New Paltz, last spring when competing for the championship. To the Pride, they have been absent from the Division III mountaintop for too long, and will seek redemption against a team that dealt them heartbreak one year earlier.
The Hawks are defending champion. They are in their final stretch of a fourth straight NCAA tournament campaign. And yet they are still technically the underdog in this scenario as the No. 4 seed, and pride themselves in their ability to pull out close, five set contests. During the regular season, New Paltz was swept in the March match 3-0 against Springfield and later 3-1 in the April match. To beat a team three consecutive times in a season is a tall order, in which a Pride squad, who hits .421 will have to answer in order to retake the throne. If Springfield fails to do so, New Paltz will claim back to back championships and firmly establish a dynasty of their own, under head coach Radu Petrus, by once again denying the most prestigious of Division III volleyball teams a chip for the third straight season.
The stakes are high and the chips are on the table. Get to Blake for 4. To say the very least, it should be good one.