By Kai Arrington
Even though volleyball wasn’t officially invented here on Alden Street, it was founded by Springfield College student William Morgan less than 10 miles away. And Springfield College has definitely shown a superiority for the sport.
It helps to have legendary coaches at the helm. The Springfield College women’s volleyball team is always a consistently competitive team. Current head coach Moira Long makes sure of this year in and year out. Long’s teams are always well coached, competitive, and always seem to have an All-American on the squad. Now in her 13th year on Alden Street, Long has a career record of 221-71 – including a 17-1 record so far this year. Long has led the Pride to eight NCAA playoff appearances, including all the way to the Elite 8 in 2011.
The players on the women’s volleyball team work their butts off, even during the offseason, and it shows. Jimmy English, a Springfield College Strength and Conditioning coach, speaks very highly of the players and their work ethic. “They come in every session and always give 100% effort no matter how hard practice was or how they are feeling that day,” he said.
That strong mindset is evident throughout their matches. They never get down on each other, always pick each other up and stay fired up after someone makes a good play. I’ve never seen this team quit or players even so much as put their head down after a bad play. According to Kylie Wixted, a junior right hitter from Ronkonkoma, New York, the standards of the program are being accountable, and having the “we over me” mentality. These standards are a big reason for their success over the years. Before committing to Springfield, well before she stepped foot in Blake Arena, Wixted was told about these standards by Katie von Kampen, a Springfield women’s volleyball alum. Wixted was impressed with what she had to say. Once she came to Springfield, she found those standards to be true.
Yet – despite the accolades, All-Americans, and overall team success throughout Long’s tenure at Springfield College, her teams seem to be overshadowed by the Pride men’s volleyball team, which is a perennial national powerhouse. Our men’s volleyball team is one of the most decorated teams in Springfield College history, winning nine national championships in 25 years under head coach Charlie Sullivan. This an impressive accomplishment for a small school hidden in a big city. The Springfield women’s volleyball team may not have won any national championships – yet – but the program is a consistent presence in the NCAA tournament – and looks headed for a deep postseason run this year. Consistently making it to the postseason in one of the best conferences in the country is impressive. It’s time for the Springfield College community to give the women’s volleyball team the credit and support they deserve.
Lack of support for women’s sport is an issue across the country. In 2021, during the Division I women’s basketball tournament, Oregon player Sedona Prince noted a huge disparity between the practice facilities offered to the men’s players and what the women got. The women were given a tiny rack of weights, whereas the men had multiple squat racks with bars and dumbbells. This wasn’t the only difference between the two but definitely the most notable. You see the same type of things in all levels of sport. As sophomore Olivia Gentry, a middle blocker on the Springfield women’s volleyball team, pointed out, men’s teams “get the interns, social media presence, and most of the decorations by the student athletics program.” But things are much more equitable now. Imagine how much the older players or even Long had to go through in the past.
Springfield College women’s volleyball is a team full of committed and driven women led by a committed and driven woman. Even though they deserve more respect, they don’t let it stop them. They use it as a chip on their shoulder, and it shows in their play and production in the classroom. “Coach Long wants us to be good on the court but also be better women too,” Gentry said. This team is winning on and off the court, and that’s what really sets it apart.
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics