The Springfield College women’s volleyball team won the MIT Invitational this past weekend without having to face the host team. MIT was eliminated quickly on day two.
One could assume the Engineers entered Tuesday evening’s match at Blake Arena without a great idea as to what they were in for.
They found out rather quickly.
Springfield College senior tri-captain Kim Giaquinto made her presence felt with 14 kills (.440 attack percentage) while putting the team on her shoulders in route to a 3-0 (25-18, 28-26, 25-23) victory over MIT. Despite perhaps their sloppiest game of the season, the newly minted No. 21 ranked Pride remained undefeated at 16-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play.
In what was being coined as “the biggest game of the season,” the Pride were shaky out of the gate as MIT jumped out to a quick lead in the first game by as many as five points.
The Pride responded before too long.
With Division III National Player of the Week Lauren Torvi seemingly taken out of play by the Engineers, three underclassmen stepped up. Freshmen Molly Giannattasio (2 aces) and Melissa McLaughlin (9 kills, 1 block) both contributed vital points, while sophomore sensation Tessa Smolinski chipped in with six kills.
Coach Moira Long attributed Torvi’s slow start to a variety of reasons.
“Our tempo wasn’t where it needed to be, and the ball wasn’t as high for her as it needed to be,” said Long. “We didn’t create the space to utilize her like we hoped to.”
Torvi would finish strong with nine total kills.
Long would need two timeouts in the second game, as her team fell into holes of 9-3 and 16-11 before fighting back both times.
“We always say in our timeouts that we need to get back to our game, and it was no different in that huddle,” Long said. “We were letting them dictate the play, but the girls responded.”
Giaquinto sparked her team with four clutch kills, two of which could be heard from the parking lot. With the crowd roaring, the Pride battled back for the 28-25 win and a commanding 2-0 lead.
“Kim’s been great all season, and her offense is really beginning to click,” said Long of her senior leader. “She brings a great work ethic, energy and an intensity that our team desperately needs.”
Giaquinto’s work did not stop there.
Back-to-back aces from the senior put Springfield in front 17-13 in the third game before MIT rallied to tie it, forcing the Pride into a timeout. Some back and forth play led to Long taking a second timeout with her team up 23-22 and looking to close things out.
McLaughlin struck first with a kill before MIT fired right back. It would be Giaquinto who fittingly nailed down the victory with one last kill.
“It was a grind out there tonight,” said Long after the win. “We were pretty sluggish all game long. We lacked the crispness we usually play with, but we kept pushing and got a big victory.”
Matt Fraser may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org