By Joe Arruda
On Tuesday night, several fans and a mounted deer head made their way into Blake Arena to watch the women’s volleyball team’s final home game of the season. The Pride (16-11, 3-6 NEWMAC) fell to Wheaton College (18-11, 4-4 NEWMAC) in four sets in what was a conference matchup.
The match was close at the start as the Pride held the Lyons to an abysmal -.075 hitting percentage in the first set, winning 25-21. Despite hitting just .071 themselves, the maroon and white were able to pull away with a victory thanks to their tenacious defense at the net and on serve returns.
The second and third set remained as tight as they could.
The Pride were able to maintain a three point lead towards the end of the second set. After a Springfield timeout leading 20-17, the Lyons were able to muster up enough momentum to tie the set at 21 points a piece. They did not turn back. Wheaton continued to add on points, and on a tip kill they won the set, 25-23.
In the third, the Pride were able to stay alive, but Wheaton led for the entirety of the set. Fending off a Springfield run on set point, the Lyons were able to hold on for another 25-23 victory.
By the time the fourth set came, the Pride were gassed. They appeared as if they had nothing left to give. That no matter where they set up, the Wheaton attack was able to find space on the floor. At the time of the second and final Springfield timeout of the set, they trailed 5-17.
Despite a small spark of momentum, the Pride fell in the fourth, 25-13.
Though it was not the way they wanted to see their season end in Blake Arena, freshman Julia O’Connor provided a bright spot for the team.
She produced a team high 13 kills on a .414 hitting clip.
“It was kind of her break-out game for sure. We’ve been working a whole lot on her quick transition, fast arm speed, so we saw some of that. She had one swing in set three and we were like, wow, we haven’t seen her go that quick all year so that was a real bright spot for us,” head coach Moira Long said.
The 2019 team was young after losing key starters after last season when they earned a No. 1 seed in the NEWMAC playoffs. This year, however, that result will be different.
“I think the mindset needs to be, I mean there’s a lot of things we’ve asked our players to change and they made some changes but I think they need to be consistent in those changes so I think ultimately that’s what we’re looking for, how can we do it from start to finish. We are young, but we’re kinda not young anymore in the fact that it’s the end of the season. A lot of people have had a lot of opportunities to play, so all season we have looked for consistency and I think that’s what we’ll continue to strive for,” Long said.
From the very start of the season, Long preached the importance of consistency to her team, and consistent obstacles along the way made meeting that goal difficult. They played Tuesday’s game with four starters injured and on the bench.
“It’s hard to be consistent when your lineup changes every week because another starter is not with us,” Long said. “That’s the reality, it’s not an excuse, but it’s the reality. I think our takeaways are, first and foremost, I love this group of women and they work hard, and I think that’s all I can ask for. They’re committed, that’s all you can ask for.”
“In terms of consistency, in order to be consistent, comes experience. I think that’s what we gained from the year was experience and ultimately how do you improve everyday? How hard do you have to work to get better every day? How intentional and purposeful do you need to be to get better every day and do it consistently? And I think it comes down to being purposeful and having a mindset of being intentional in every single time you walk in the gym, so that’s what we’ve asked of our players. I think they’ve done a good job of that, but we need to take one more step.”
The Pride will conclude their season in Boston, Mass., where they will match up with Emerson in their final NEWMAC match of the year. That game will be on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 1:00 p.m..
Photo courtesy of Helen Lucas