By Joe Arruda
Fans filed their way into the Blake Arena bleachers on Friday night, most of them getting their first look at the Springfield College women’s volleyball team (9-3) this season. The Pride defeated St. Lawrence University (10-2), three sets to none in their first home game since the Springfield College Invitational, which was held before the majority of the campus moved in, in the last weekend of August.
After falling to MIT in their first NEWMAC matchup of the season, the Pride continued its trend of bouncing back on Friday.
“Opportunity to respond is really important. I think we’ve done that so far after all of our losses. We lost to Stockton, came back and beat NYU. Lost to Johnson and Wales, came back and beat Roger Williams and Stevens. Lost to MIT, and came back here,” said head coach Moira Long.
“What do we take from each match, whether it’s good or bad, and then how do we apply it to the next one. It’s always good to bounce back with a win.”
Springfield stood its ground against the visiting Saints, sweeping them out of Blake Arena in straight sets. Camryn Bancroft, second in NCAA Division III for hitting percentage entering the match, continued her stellar play, finishing with 11 kills on a .364 hitting percentage. But, Bancroft was not the only player in maroon and white who came up big in the victory.
Senior Katie vonKampen tallied 9 kills on a .643 clip, two of which clinched set wins for the Pride.
“I actually did not realize that (she clinched the first and second sets). I guess that’s pretty big, but it was a total team effort. Just practice this whole week, we practiced some talking and really communicating so without the talk from the back row to the front row we wouldn’t have been able to get those kills,” said vonKampen.
A “total team effort” is the best way to describe the win. The 2018 NEWMAC Rookie of the Year, Sara Labadorf-led offense fed off of her 33 assists. Labadorf brought out the versatility of the Pride as four different players produced 7 or more kills.
While the attack was strong, it was not the only shining factor for the home team.
Labadorf and classmate Briana Tovar each contributed 4 service aces, along with senior Bridget Walsh who tacked on 3 of her own.
Defensively, the Pride held St. Lawrence to a .246 hitting percentage while producing 44 digs. Sophomore Demi Spanos and senior Anagabrielle Sanchez highlighted the return for Springfield with 22 and 15 digs, respectively. This does not include the many times Sanchez was found diving on the court for hard hits from the Saints attack. It was as if she was in a video game, she made it look easy to produce a perfect ball when completely laid out on the floor.
Long emphasized consistency. The ability to constantly attack and control the game was key for the Pride.
“We’ve been preaching consistency with a young team all year and they continue to hear and I think starting to understand. Ultimately every ball that you swing at doesn’t have to be a kill it just needs to take them out of system, put pressure on them every serve. I think that’s been key for us,” Long said.
Each player knows their role. They all know that they cannot get down on themselves despite a bad play, or after a tough loss the game before, and there is no better support system than the Blake Arena crowd.
“Blake Arena always has the greatest crowd ever,” said vonKampen. “I think it means so much that so many people come out to support, it makes playing in here so much more fun than volleyball already is, and volleyball is really fun to begin with. It’s just always an awesome atmosphere.”
Springfield has proven its hunger to bounce back. They’ve done it twice already on the road, and now back at home.
“After MIT, obviously thats a NEWMAC game that we lost and we really wanted, so it left a bad taste in our mouth and we just were itching to get back in practice on Wednesday,” said vonKampen.
“I went in coach’s office actually Wednesday morning, we had a meeting, and I was like, ‘Ugh, I just want practice to start so we can fix what we need to work on.’ So we were just really excited to take a step forward and I think we proved that today.”
The Pride will look to improve their NEWMAC record at home twice this week, the next on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 21, against WPI at 1:00, and again on Tuesday, Sept. 24, against Clark University.
Featured photo courtesy Springfield College Athletics