By Joe Arruda
The Pride (9-4) were dominating in Blake Arena on Saturday afternoon, on the prowl for their first NEWMAC conference win of the year. The Engineers from WPI (5-5) couldn’t handle the Springfield College defense at the net, mustering an abysmal .000 hitting percentage.
But, after the first set it all changed.
WPI made changes in their lineup which flipped the script.
In the second set, Springfield’s hitting percentage dropped to .149 while the Engineer attack improved to a .359 clip.
“I made a couple changes in our lineup (after the first set), and to be quite honest, my coaching style is not to make cold-hearted changes on the fly. I believe student-athletes can work their way out of it, but we thought we had to make some changes right away,” said WPI head coach Greg Poole, a Springfield College alum.
“So in between games we changed our libero, and our backup libero Jenna Galli came in and did amazing. She was great, made some plays. And we changed one of our outside hitters because we were just looking to be a little bit more aggressive on the outside and Maddie Sanborn has been close to getting in that lineup quite a bit. I was like, ‘Give her a shot. We just lost 25-9, what do we have to lose?'”
An ACE for Anagabrielle Sanchez wins the first set for the Pride, 25-9 pic.twitter.com/W4RKIFvWU6
— Joe Arruda (@joearruda9) September 21, 2019
The Pride were unable to execute their main goal.
The word that head coach Moira Long repeats over and over again.
“It was just our mindset (that changed). We were super aggressive in set one, we were serving seams, we were changing up, attacking, attacking. We call it the tool box, we were tipping and just caught them off balance. And then set two we totally went away from that,” she said.
After being tied at 21, Springfield allowed four straight points that lost the second set.
“We just didn’t execute a game plan,” said Long. “It was just like, ‘Hey, we gotta stop serving right into their platform. We need to serve into seams, we need to change speed, we need to have our middles run some slides.’ And then we do that, but our word of the year is consistency, and we’re just not consistently doing it.”
The fourth set featured a wild ending.
There were signs of momentum for the maroon and white.
On set point, the Pride with a 24-23 lead, an almost 50 second long rally ensued. Players from both teams made acrobatic returns, laying out on the floor to eventually send the ball over the net.
Eventually, WPI’s Amanda Wetmore met Springfield senior Bridget Walsh at the net. She forced the ball through the block, landing just out of reach for sophomore Mackenzie Nunes for the Pride, who’s right arm stretched out along the floor.
That point tied the set at 24, and all Pride momentum was lost.
Springfield, coming off of a sweep of St. Lawrence the night before, did not have the same luxury of preparation that WPI did. However, being in the same conference, the teams aren’t unfamiliar with each other.
“It’s few and far between that we’ve gotten a win against Springfield because they are always prepared, they’re always good,” Poole said. “Thursday, Friday, and last night we spent a lot of time watching film, looking at them, going over scouting reports because they have very specific hitters and we thought we could limit what they were doing.”
“We’re not going to stop them, they’re too good, but try and limit some of their production because they’ve been hitting outrageous hitting percentages. We thought if we could keep them around .300 or below we could have a shot, and I think we kept them at .229 so we did what we were hoping to do.”
For WPI, they improve to 1-1 in conference play, while the Pride drop to 0-2, still searching for their first conference win. That quest will continue on Tuesday when Blake Arena will host a matchup against Clark University at 7:00 p.m..
“I think what I say to them is that we need to be consistent, and there isn’t anything that we can talk about to fix that,” Long said. “You have to do it internally, and you have to do your job from start to finish and not be inconsistent in what we give with our voices, and what we give with our play. We were inconsistent today.”
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics