Assistant Sports Editor
Someone is eventually going to have to replace Joe Paterno as Penn State’s Football coach. Jimbo Fisher has replaced Bobby Bowden at Florida State with mixed success. UCLA is still looking for someone to fill the enormous shoes of John Wooden.
Fortunately for the Springfield College women’s volleyball team, they did not need to look too far to find someone up to the challenge of replacing resident legend, Joel Dearing.
That person is Moira Long. Coach Long, who was a graduate assistant from 1995-97, returns to Alden Street after 13 seasons as head coach at Plymouth State (N.H.), where she built quite the résumé, compiling a record of 301-156, including ten 20-win seasons and a Little East Conference championship.
Despite all the success she enjoyed in New Hampshire, Long knew as soon as this job became available that she would put her name in for it.
“This is my dream job. How many people can say that?” Long said of her new position. “I met my husband here; we got married right in Marsh, got engaged on campus…As soon as Coach [Dearing] told me he had taken another position, it was a no-brainer.”
The college saw it very much the same way. According to Dearing, as soon as he was in a position to apply for the position in the Athletic Administration Graduate program, Long was the first person he thought of that, should it work out, replace him.
He has not been disappointed.
The Pride have started this season off just as hot as they finished last season, winning championships in both the Springfield Invitational and the Johnson and Wales Invitational. Helping ease the transition have been the five returning seniors, including Captain Kim Giaquinto.
“The transition has been as smooth as you could possibly hope for,” said Giaquinto. “Coach Long has a lot of good things to bring to the table, and the fact that she worked with Coach Dearing in the past has made it easy from a playing standpoint. We are all excited about what we can accomplish this year.”
All the success they have been having has made it hard for Coach Dearing to stay away, but he has still kept tabs on the team.
“The atmosphere in there is very new,” Dearing said of this year’s team. “And I am much more comfortable with letting them get comfortable in that atmosphere without me there.”
“I watched the game that first Friday on the laptop, which was weird,” added Dearing. “Then Saturday, I was watching the live stats.”
“I’m going to find my ways to stay involved, but I wanted them to get a few matches under their belt before I start sitting up in the bleachers.”
The coaching change has not tempered this team’s expectations. Long said that their sights remain high, but they intend to stay grounded.
“Our first and foremost goal is to win the [NEWMAC] Conference,” said Long. “By doing that, we guarantee ourselves a spot in the NCAAs; but we’re taking it one game at a time. We open up with Babson, and we’re just going to take it game by game from there.”
Tessa Smolinski’s 17 kills led the Pride to a 3-1 victory against Babson Sept. 13.
Jimmy Kelley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org