By Joe Arruda
The Babson College women’s volleyball team arrived on a somber and gloomy Springfield College campus where they would matchup against the Pride in a critical New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) contest on Tuesday evening.
Just before the national anthem, Springfield Athletics asked for a moment of silence in honor of Connor Neshe, a Springfield freshman who passed away over the weekend. Neshe was a member of the Springfield College tennis team.
The Pride came to play.
But, despite their impressive intensity, they would fall to the Beavers who sit at second place in the NEWMAC standings in four sets.
Entering the match with a record of 23-1, the Pride knew that they would have a tough competition on their hands.
“I thought we had a great amount of fight which was really good. They’re a very good team and we knew that, but I was very pleased with how hard we fought,” head coach Moira Long said.
In the first set, the Pride struggled hitting around the tenacious Babson team at the net. Springfield posted an abysmal .091 hitting clip, losing the set 16-25.
Then, the script would flip.
The Blake Arena bleachers had a newfound life. With members of the men’s volleyball team leading the cheers, the campus experienced a slight sense of unity.
When the second set came along, the Pride were ready for the fight. Holding the Beavers to a similar .081 hitting percentage, Springfield came away with an identical 25-16 set victory.
“Ultimately we have to control the things that we can control. You can control your communication, your intensity and your effort, and I thought we did a really good job of that,” Long said.
Towards the end of the second set, sophomore Gabrielle Bradley came down awkwardly after attempting a block. And after she came down, she stayed down. The referee blew her whistle and Bradley was carried off of the court.
“It’s really tough when every time you go into a match you have another injury,” Long said. “Ultimately we just keep getting younger based on the fact that we keep getting injured.”
The starting lineup for the Pride did not feature stars Camryn Bancroft and Bridget Walsh who were down with previous injuries, resulting in two freshmen, Claire Dorr and Lilian Traum getting the call.
“(Our freshmen) are getting really great experience right now whether they’re being thrown into the fire or not based on their ability to play, but it’s great that they’re getting the experience, and we’re just going to take it one day at a time,” Long said.
Now, with Bradley out, the Pride had to look elsewhere.
Long added, “We have 14 players on our team for a reason, and every single person needs to contribute. I think yes, Babson’s a really good team and ultimately they came out on top but I think everybody needs to do their job and everybody can fight, and everybody can control the three things we talked about: (communication, intensity, and effort).”
Sophomore Demi Spanos continued to be the bright spot in the maroon and white. She led the team with 15 kills on a .238 hitting clip.
“She’s awesome,” Long said.
“I think we need to have a mindset of just being aggressive and there were a couple times where she took big swings at balls and (just barely) missed, and I was like that’s fine, keep taking that swing. We’d rather you miss and be super aggressive and maybe they’re gonna play it versus I’m just gonna be careful and roll the ball into the net. I thought she was super aggressive and I thought that’s what we need from her.”
Springfield has just two matches left in their season, both of them being in conference play. Next Tuesday, October 29, at 7:00 p.m. the Pride will host Wheaton (Mass.) in what will likely be their final home match of the year. They will then wrap up their season on the road at Emerson on the following Saturday, November 2, at 1:00 p.m..
Photo courtesy of Helen Lucas