All good things must come to an end. That was the case for the Springfield College women’s volleyball team as they were dropped in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Championship Tournament for the second year in a row.
The Pride had been immensely successful all year, going into the NCAA Championships sporting a 24-6 record while also coming off a NEWMAC Championship win against Wellesley.
Their success continued in the quarterfinals on Friday as they trounced Baruch College from New York City, sweeping them with set scores of 25-18, 25-8 and 27-25.
The game was highlighted by the individual play of sophomore Kelsey McGayhey and senior Tessa Smolinski, as the two put up .667 and .619 attacking percentages, respectively. Over the course of the 99 attacks attempted by Springfield, 50 resulted in kills while only eight ended up as errors, resulting in a .424 team attacking percentage.
After the demolishing of Baruch on Friday, Springfield went on to face a familiar foe in Williams College on Saturday. The two teams had met previously this season at the Volleyball Hall of Fame Invitational in Northampton, Mass., a match that the Pride won three sets to two.
The set tally would remain the same as it did in October, but unfortunately, the Pride were on the losing end this time around.
In front of a crowd of just over 300 in Williamstown, Mass., the Pride took the second and third sets 25-20 and 25-18, while Williams took the first and fourth 25-21, 25-20, then sealed it with a 15-11 victory in the sudden-death fifth set.
The match was defined by more team play, as individual attacking percentages were kept relatively low, especially compared to Friday’s game for Springfield. Unfortunately, the team play was not what it needed to be for the Pride, as Springfield had 158 total attacks, resulting in only 58 kills while committing 16 errors.
“We all knew Williams was going to be a handful,” said coach Moira Long. “They, too, have a lot of weapons on their team. We match up well, and having gone five with them the last time we played we expected more of the same type of battle. I think we did not execute on points we needed to and that was the difference in the match.”
Springfield still had a decorated group of athletes as McGayhey, Lauren Holt and Whitney Miller were All-America Honorable Mentions, while Smolinski made the second team. They finished the year 26-6 overall, and 9-1 in the NEWMAC.
Despite the letdown, the team has already begun to look toward next season.
“I think in order to get further next year, it, again, is a step-by-step process, just as it was this year. It starts today, evaluating where we go from here,” said Long.
The Pride had a relatively young team this season, with only three seniors on the roster. They received major contributions from several freshmen and sophomores, so the returners will have plenty of playing experience. These returning players are already taking the initiative to step up their individual game in order to supplement their overall team play.
“I hope to improve my connection with the setters and strengthen my defense,” said Holt.
While this season ended with a disappointing loss, the season itself was not a disappointment. Springfield’s NCAA Tournament appearance was the fourth one in four years and third straight for the Pride under Long. They will look to extend this tournament streak to five come next season.