One look of the scoreboard revealed that Springfield College is up 14-12 in the fifth set of a match against Clark University.
Springfield setter Sara Labadorf bounced the ball a couple of times before sending it over the net into a sea of defenders.
She moved into her position as she prepared for the return from Clark.
After the ball bounced off of junior middle back, Katie vonKampen, Labadorf pushed the ball back into the direction of vonKampen, who sent a blast past the Clark defenders for the five set victory.
Labadorf ran the offense to near perfection as she totalled 59 assists on the night while only committing one error in the Pride’s 3-2 win on September 18.
Springfield College women’s volleyball head coach Moira Long remembers the first time she met with Labadorf.
“Sara (Labadorf) came on her overnight visit and we were wrapping things up after her stay,” said Long. “She asked me what I thought she needed to work on and I told her about her tempo and a score serve. She called me the next day to let me know she has spoke with her club coach to set up times to stay late in practice to work on her tempo to the pins.”
Long knew that Labadorf had the characteristics that she looked for in a setter.
“Having been a setter, I have a high level of expectation from the position and I certainly know what I am looking for,” said Long.
The hard working characteristics of Labadorf have ties that stretch from Springfield College back to Huntersville, North Carolina.
Growing up in a family of four, Labadorf has always been surrounded by sports her entire life.
“I played almost every sport, trying everything out,” said Labadorf. “Pretty much everything with a ball, I loved, [plus]swimming.”
She was introduced to Springfield College early, through her father’s soccer camps that ran every year on campus.
Soccer was her passion, until she discovered volleyball in the third grade.
After trying recreational volleyball, followed by trying club volleyball in sixth grade, she knew it was the sport for her.
It was not until her 15th year of club volleyball, when Labadorf first faced adversity during her career.
Labadorf’s club coach told her that she was too short to hit in college.
Although it was late for a volleyball player to learn a new position as a freshman in high school, she did. Labadorf switched to the setter position, due to having great control with her hands.
Labadorf continued playing for the club, Carolina Juniors, for the remainder of high school.
Despite playing as a setter for her club team, her high school coach still needed her as an outside hitter for the varsity team. So, she did both.
“I always say, ‘Do as your coach says,’ and that is it,” said Labadorf. “You just do as you’re told.”
With her high school coach also not having an assistant coach, she relied on Labadorf to be a strong second voice.
Her team would go on to compete in the fourth round of state playoffs twice.
Junior year of high school proved to be essential for Labadorf in terms of recruiting. She joined the Carolina Storm for one year where her coach would help push her in the recruitment process.
Labadorf set up ten college visits within the Northeast, which included a trip to Springfield College.
She met up with Long and created a vital connection with her.
After Long saw Labadorf’s highlight video, they talked about what she could improve upon.
After being told that she could improve her tempo to the pins, she knew that more hard work was to come to propel her game to the next level.
The following day Labadorf would go back to her high school coach asking about “If I could come before and after practice to work on tempo to the pins?”
Throughout her final two years at high school, she would work every single practice to improve on what Long told her.
Her hard work paid off during her the Storm’s trip out west to Colorado to play a match.
Long who was in attendance for the game, and Labadorf’s dedication to improving her game was evident.”
“She is a competitor and just talking to Sara I knew she has something special,” said Long. “When I finally had the opportunity to watch her play live in Colorado, I knew for sure she had the mental, emotional and physical presence we were looking for in our student athletes.”
Later on in her recruitment process, Labadorf stayed overnight at Springfield College, where she would meet her eventual teammates.
“My overnight was when I realized this was the place for me,” said Labadorf. “The team here loves and trusts each other on and off the court.”
When her junior season came around, she took over the setter position and led her team to two state championships during her final years of high school.
After finding the Physical Therapy program at Springfield College, Labadorf was sold and committed to Springfield.
Caring for other athletes in a clinical setting has allowed her to develop a passion for helping people.
Her ability to help and communicate with others has led to the development of a strong bond with her teammates very early on in her freshman year.
Being one of three setters on the team, she is always making sure to keep the communication at a high level.
“Between sets during a game, we will get together and talk about what is working and what could be done better,” said Labadorf. “Being a setter on the team allows me to be steady and calm while keeping the team calm as well.”
The team places a large value on forming connections between every member on the team.
“Whether its freshman to seniors or all over the place, we want to form connections with each other to make the team stronger together,” said Labadorf.
Her connections with her teammates have proved to be invaluable during her first season.
“I can not do anything without my passers or hitters,” said Labadorf. “ The amount of assists that I get comes directly from my the work that my passers and hitters are doing.”
Her connection with Long has been the strongest during the early stages of her freshman year.
“I have only been here two months, but coach (Long) has been such an inspiration to me,” said Labadorf. She is everything that you could ever ask for in a coach.”
Being a former setter herself, Long has been able to connect with Labadorf on a deeper level because she understands a setters’ tendencies.
“Sara (Labadorf) and I just talk about offense, what we see, what we can take advantage of strategically,” said Long. Sara and I can talk on another level of understanding what is needed in the position of setter and what I expect from the position.”
Labadorf’s passion to work hard to provide consistent sets for her teammates has been invaluable for the team as Springfield has jumped out to an 19-3 overall record on the season. She has assisted 737 points in just 22 games.
Labadorf’s desire to challenge herself to be better with every touch of the ball will continue to provide a steady force in the middle of the Pride’s offense for the next four years.
Photos courtesy of Springfield Athletics