Their 15-13 record last year did not tell the whole story for the Springfield College women’s volleyball team. The Pride lost eight of their last nine games to end the season, while going 5-5 in conference play. The team’s .195 hitting percentage contributed to their lack of success, as the team found themselves committing too many hitting errors.
With seven new freshmen on roster, the team has looked for a new start coming into this year.
“The team welcomed all seven of us freshman with open arms and incredible leadership,” said freshman setter, Sara Labadorf. “The returners shared their wisdom with us, and we all connected really fast.”
With four seniors on roster, the Pride needs their upperclassmen to lead the inexperienced roster. Coming off of a season with a total of 389 kills, all eyes will be on senior outside hitter, Jen Donnelly, to have a big senior season to help stabilize the frontline.
“She has been a leader since sophomore year,” said head coach Moira Long. “This year she is very consistent emotionally, mentally and physically. She has done a great job setting the standard for teammates in practices, by stepping up in moments to voice when the team needs to be better executing.”
During the first two weeks of the 2018 season, the Pride has found themselves with a perfect 7-0 record, while only dropping two sets. A major difference coming into the season has been their increase in hit percentage from .195 to .285.
Being able to convert on more kills while limiting hitting errors has been crucial for Springfield to keep the pressure on opponents.
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While Jen Donnelly (62) and sophomore Camryn Bancroft (59) lead the team in kills, another major factor for the team has been Labadorf. She has contributed to the team in a big way with accounting for 215 assists throughout the first two weeks of the season.
Consistency has been a massive focus for the freshmen setter.
“My role is to give my hitters consistent and hittable sets,” said Labadorf. “Consistency is so important so that my teammates can trust that I will put the ball where they need it.”
Her contributions have reminded Long of the recruiting process of Labadorf.
“In the recruiting process, I mention to her that I think her tempo to the pins for our offense needs to be faster,” said Long. “She left and contacted me the next day to mention her plan to work on her tempo with her club coach.
That was six months before training camp started for the team.
When she came to camp, coaches that worked with the setters noted how good Labadorf’s tempo to the pin was and how consistent her effort was.
Her ability to know the game has also caught the eye of Long.
“Sara studies her abilities and of those around her,” said Long. “She is consistent in her ability to put the ball in the same spot, which has help to build trust with her teammates.
For Springfield to continue their success this season, consistency is going to be essential. Although the hitting percentage for the team may fluctuate as the season progresses, the Pride need to focus on limiting hitting errors to avoid the self-inflicted wounds that plagued them last season.
The team also needs to stay focused during road trips which was a detriment to them last season. Staying consistent from set to set will help the Pride improve on their 7-9 road record.
With nine of their 13 losses last year coming in the month of October, the Pride need other members to step up and contribute to allow the team as a whole to rest and stay focused throughout the season.
“You learn from the prior year and move forward,” said Long. “You have to have connections on your team, which we lacked a little bit of that last year. We are approaching this year by focusing on trusting each other and communicating on the court.”
As long as Springfield can stay consistent with trusting and communicating with each other as the calendar turns to October, the team will be a very tough opponent to take out in the NEWMAC.