By Chris Gionta
In November 2021, the Springfield College women’s volleyball team awaited the fate of its season — a fate that was not for them to decide on the court. Players’ and coaches’ eyes were glued to a television set outside the varsity weight room for the NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Selection Show.
After much anticipation, it was revealed that they would be facing Rowan in the first round of the tournament. A rush of emotions were released by everyone outside that weight room, as the NCAA rewarded the Pride’s hard-fought season that got them to the NEWMAC Championship.
Springfield defeated Rowan in the first round of the tournament, then was eventually defeated by No. 1 overall-seeded Johns Hopkins.
The 2022 team looks to build off what it did last year, and are starting off effectively with a 5-1 record thus far. The Pride lost some high-level talent through graduation last year, but also added a lot to its young and developing squad.
Springfield lost four starters from 2021 — Camryn Bancroft, Sara Labadorf, Briana Tovar, and Ashley Tanner. The most notable of the losses is middle blocker Camryn Bancroft, who earned AVCA Region II Player of the Year honors after a spectacular 2021 campaign. She led the team in kills and ranked top 30 in the nation in hitting percentage with a .357 rate.
However, despite her not playing for the team, she is still very much a part of it, as she is serving as an assistant coach.
“I think as soon as her playing career was over — and even when she was on the court last year, she kind of was coaching a little bit,” Long said. “I’m just so excited to have her on the bench. She knows our system. She knows my expectations. And, it’s different because she knows the expectations from a player’s perspective, which is helpful for our team, and then, obviously now, from a coaching perspective for our team.”
This season brings many quality newcomers with a mix of transfers and first-year players. Sophomore outside hitter Riley Donahue has been making a significant impact offensively and defensively. After transferring from Endicott College, she is currently leading the Pride in kills (94), service aces (19), and is second on the team in digs (62).
The only player Donahue trails in digs is fellow transfer Ally Townsend, who played three years for Towson University in Division I before now playing in the back row for Springfield. Townsend has acquired the starting libero role and has averaged more than 22 digs per game.
The two transfers do not only bring outstanding play, but also something that can not be observed in a box score.
“I think they’re bringing some experience — we’re pretty young all around,” Long said. “Riley [Donahue] was a starter for Endicott and played their whole season — played in the NCAA Tournament and their conference championship. Ally [Townsend] was the defensive specialist at Towson and also played in the NCAA [Tournament]. So, I think they bring some experience to a pretty youthful group. I think they bring a high level of volleyball IQ, which is really helpful.”
The Pride also carry an impressive class of first-years into the 2022 season. Most significantly, Megan Kirtyan has been a consistent starter at the setter position and has 170 assists in the team’s six games thus far. Emily Keaveny has had games making a big impact, and that was highlighted in Springfield’s five-set win over Haverford. In the competitive match, she provided nine kills and four service aces. Meanwhile, Maeve Voltz has been a presence at the middle blocker position with 23 kills and 10 blocks this season.
“I really think that every one in our freshman class has the opportunity to kind of work themselves in on to the court,” Long said.
Springfield set a high precedent with its successful season last year, but has all the tools to get back to the NCAA Tournament.