Often times in sports, athletes need to think like goldfish and forget things quickly. That was the case for the Springfield College women’s volleyball team this past weekend as they hosted the Tom Hay Invitational.
Friday night featured a much-anticipated match-up as the top two teams in New England squared off, filling up Blake Arena to its roughly 400-person attendance, as No. 1 Roger Williams beat No. 2 Springfield in a heartbreaking, yet thrilling game. The Pride certainly did not go down without a fight, making Roger Williams earn every single point. Springfield took the second and fourth sets by margins of 25-19 and 25-21, but dropped the odd-numbered sets 27-25, 26-24 and 15-13.
Springfield put forth a well-rounded effort, but also featured standout performances as sophomore Kelsey McGayhey put together a .571 hitting percentage and senior Tessa Smolinski tallied 16 kills. On paper, the teams were evenly matched, but Roger Williams had much better timing, scoring points at critical, momentum-shifting moments of the game, something coach Moira Long said cannot continue to happen.
“We had a few moments in the match where we needed to get a point and it did not happen. We need to value each and every point no matter if it is 0-0 or 23-21,” Long said.
The urgency of this has echoed throughout the entire team, as freshman Lauren Holt concurs that lack of execution was a downfall against Roger Williams.
“It just came down to a few critical points that we didn’t execute on. We truly see now that every point matters and that we need to value every play,” Holt said.
Springfield proved that despite losing, they are a New England powerhouse and can hold their own with the best.
“Overall, [it] was one of the best matches we have played so far this season. It really showed how much we have grown since day one of preseason,” said Holt.
The Pride had a short memory, however, and quickly rebounded in commanding fashion on Saturday, demolishing both Westfield State and Plymouth State.
Both matches consisted of similar structures as Springfield commanded the game in the first and third sets, but allowed their opponents to stick around in the second set. Nevertheless, Springfield put together two sweeps that helped guide them to a 16-2 record thus far in the season. The two conference matches were more important than just getting a win.
“We learned from our loss on Friday and took Saturday as an opportunity to come firing back,” Holt said.
They did just that as Holt and Smolinski led the Pride statistically against Westfield State, garnering 13 and 12 points respectively and as a result sweeping Westfield State with set scores of 25-6, 25-21 and 25-10.
This dominance carried over to the afternoon game as Springfield put together three sets of 25-8, 25-17 and 25-11 scores to knock off Plymouth State. Freshman Amanda Palladino compiled a .438 hitting percentage, while the Pride were again led in points by Smolinski (11.5) and Holt (10).
Saturday’s rebound was critical for the team, according to Long.
“You are always aware as a coach that your team is probably emotionally, mentally and physically tired after a match like [Roger Williams], but to come out and really play well and execute at our level [Saturday] was really important,” Long said.
Springfield will now travel south to take on Texas squads Southwestern University and Trinity University, as well as Eastern University from Pennsylvania and Webster University from Missouri in the Trinity Fall Classic in San Antonio, Texas. All four matches will provide formidable competition for the Pride, as Eastern and Trinity are both in the top 25.
“I believe each of the matches we have had this season are a stepping stone to the next,” Long said.“We believe we need to take something away from every experience and I think our team continues to do that.”
Though the team does not know much about the competition in Texas from firsthand experience, Holt knows one thing is for certain.
“No matter who steps on the other side of the net, we are going to come out aggressive and play our game,” Long said.