By Joe Arruda
I sat in my room, after being contact-traced and isolated, as the Springfield men’s volleyball team competed in its final two matches of the year. I plugged into the live stream on my computer as the team warmed up, just a five-minute walk down Alden Street in Blake Arena.
In six straight sets, the team swept Lasell twice, improving its record to 5-1 in what was a last-stitch push for the NCAA Tournament.
However, when the team gathered the next day to watch the selection show, it came up just short.
It took a perfect storm to keep Springfield out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the sport’s inception by the NCAA in 2012.
On paper, sure, maybe they didn’t play as many games as the other teams. Yes, they did take a tough loss to Wentworth that granted the Leopards an at-large bid into the bracket.
Was Springfield given a fair shot by the selection committee? Not in my opinion.
Lancaster Bible, another school that earned an at-large bid and a bye in the tournament, was supposed to come to Blake Arena on Saturday, April 10, two days before the bracket was announced. Instead, the Chargers had complications with the Coronavirus and were not able to make the trip.
I’m not guaranteeing the Pride would have won those games, but when this team plays at its potential, they can beat anyone.
When those games were cancelled just two days before they were scheduled to happen, a fill-in game where the Pride would travel to Wentworth was penciled in. A lack of opportunity for preparation coupled with one or more players unable to be with the team caused the Pride to lose its only game of the year.
Still, it wasn’t like they’d been blown out – they lost 3-1 and scored 24, 24 and 22 in each of the sets they lost.
As some of the team gathered to watch the selection show on Monday morning, April 12, there was a question of what the committee would weigh most heavily.
Would it be that Springfield was ranked No. 1 in the country for the entirety of the season before that last-minute loss at Wentworth? Or would it be the sole fact that they have a “1” in the loss column?
Also, Springfield dominated Endicott twice in a doubleheader to open the season, the Gulls went on to win the NECC, earning an automatic bid.
It’s easy to look back on how abruptly the season ended, but it’s important to be grateful that it wasn’t as abrupt as the year before. The amount of work that went into making a season possible, to give the team a shot at having a season when many other teams missed out, was tremendous, at the very least.
Navigating the waters of being independent from a conference when the rest of the teams in the area were competing in a conference-only schedule was difficult. Thankfully, the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) was willing to let Springfield in for the regular season.
Ensuring a safe-to-play environment during the pandemic that has killed over a half million people was incredibly difficult.
While the pandemic has begun to get under control, the result of Springfield’s men’s volleyball season was completely out of their hands.
It’s tough to see an end to any season, but this one hits particularly hard. The team had their chances stripped by the virus last year, and it was stolen once again.
Photo Courtesy of Joe Arruda