By Chris Gionta
After a season away from competition, volleyball has returned to where the game originated in Western Massachusetts.
Springfield College women’s volleyball’s last season of competition was in 2019, where they finished with a 16-12 record in an injury-plagued season. It ended on a six-game losing streak, with much of that having to do with team health. Springfield hopes the injury bug does not strike again in 2021.
“Injuries literally destroyed our season,” said Camryn Bancroft, a graduate student and middle blocker for the Pride. “Basically 5 out of the 6 starters were out for a lot of the season.”
In terms of projection for this year, the 2021 NEWMAC preseason coaches poll had them in the middle of the pack, as they were ranked sixth out of the 11 teams in the conference.
They returned to the court this past weekend for the Springfield College Invitational, where they won all four of their matches.
The opening weekend started off with ease on Friday against Westfield State. The Pride won the first set, 25-7, and then did not allow more than 15 points in either of their next two victorious sets. Bancroft got her graduate year off to a dominant start against Westfield State, as she totalled 13 kills on a .722 kill percentage, along with three blocks, all without receiving an attack error.
Bancroft was particularly happy with Springfield’s dominance to start the season, noting that they did not pull off the gas pedal when facing a team they felt comfortable with.
“I think the big problem we’ve had in the past is playing down to other levels,” said Bancroft. “When you play good teams, your level of play is better, but the hardest part is when teams don’t have as much talent as you do, it’s tough to stay and not drop down to their level, so I think we did a good job of continuing our high play.”
Springfield’s second matchup on Friday came with a little more difficulty, as their opponent, Brandeis, had also won their previous matchup at the Invitational. The Pride still won the first two sets by 15 and seven points, respectively. After dropping the third set, Springfield took the fourth and final set by a score of 25-23.
Two more matches awaited for the Pride on Saturday, with Endicott and Skidmore ahead of them. Endicott brought a challenge as they split the first two sets with Springfield, and only lost their second set by two points. But, Springfield was able to take over afterwards with two set wins in a row by the score of 25-19 and 25-14, respectively.
Leading the way against Endicott was first-year Natalie Billet, who made her mark by gathering 18 kills and nine digs. Additionally, fellow first-year Kylie Wixted put together 10 kills on an impressive .625 percentage.
Bancroft, in her graduate year, is impressed with the young talent filling the court this season.
“Natalie (Billet) has been killing it on the outside; she’s just a great newcomer to our team, a great teammate, and she’s going to go really far,” said Bancroft. “And Kylie (Wixted) is just a beast; at 6’3”, she’s going to be just so nasty at the net.”
To end the weekend, Springfield swept Skidmore, winning each set by at least nine points.
After a successful Labor Day weekend, the Pride is regrouping and preparing for the Union Invitational at Union College, where three games are scheduled for them. Following that invitational, they will be entering conference play.