By Joe Arruda
The Springfield College women’s volleyball team took the court on Tuesday night against Coast Guard Academy, the match tied at one set a piece.
They did so without their star, Camryn Bancroft.
Bancroft could be found at second in Division III for hitting percentage, and fifth for total kills entering the game.
But, she could not be found on the court entering the third set.
Sitting at the end of the bench was No. 18, the reason unknown.
The show would have to go on without her. The Pride was hungry for its second conference win on the season, dreading a third NEWMAC loss.
But that is exactly what they would receive.
Despite winning a competitive third set, 25-22, Springfield would fall in the following two, eventually losing in five sets. For Coast Guard, it improves to 4-1 in the conference and establishes its program as a strong contender.
As for head coach Mike Byron’s Bears, their game plan changed with the sight of Bancroft hobbling around the Pride bench.
“We expect them to be really good, and I still don’t know what happened to Camryn Bancroft, I meant to ask coach Long. She is one of the best players in the conference so we prepared a lot for her and then she played in the first set and then didn’t play (through) the second. We really prepared a lot for her, for what they can do in the middle, and I felt we did a good job of serving tough enough to put them in a tough spot,” said Byron.
Springfield’s defense was not the force that they are used to relying on. Mustering just four blocks through five sets, three of them coming in what looked like a dominant first set, the Bears appeared to execute their plan.
“The nice part about our sport is that you can lose 25-13 and you’re only down one,” Byron said. “I think that volleyball coaches have that ability to just, you know, sometimes you’re gonna get a dud, and you can just relax and trust your team. I think every coach, I’m sure coach Long will tell you the same thing, it is absolutely a rollercoaster but you just trust your kids and it helps you get through it.”
The two teams, being conference foes, have familiar history.
Recently, that history has provided some exciting matchups.
Byron said, “It’s a really good team that battles. We always expect that from Springfield. I think the last four years we’ve played them it went four, five, five, and five. So, we expect that. We expect them to be well-coached and to compete, and that was a great match. It’s hard to win a match on either side in NEWMAC, so it was a good night for our program.”
In total, Coast Guard finished with 65 kills to Springfield’s 40. Headlining the stat sheet for the Bears was Sophomore Amanda Dake who tallied 26 of her own. Makenna Martin and Noelle Tursky led that high powered offense with 30 and 26 assists, respectively.
For Springfield, senior Bridget Walsh stepped up, producing 12 kills on a .367 hitting clip. The team would hit at a .158 percentage, a low of .067 in the second set and the high of .222 in the first set.
The Bears took a page out of the Pride book, responding to a tough five-set loss to MIT with a five-set win in their next match.
“I was happy with how we responded after a tough match against MIT on Saturday, we lost in five, and I think it speaks to my team’s ability to trust what we do well,” Byron said. “No matter who we’re playing, whether it’s a win or a loss, just come off and get into the next match and believe in each other and believe in what we do. If it’s good enough, then hopefully we get a win.”
Improving to 4-1 in the NEWMAC conference is a big deal. The conference represents an elite group of teams, and any win is notable. For Springfield, they look to keep their heads above the raging waters.
“Our conference is so tough and I think that it speaks a lot to the quality of school and the quality of coach, and the quality of kid that everybody has that everyone puts up a fight and we better come ready to play because you can beat anybody on a given night and you can lose to anybody on a given night,” Byron said.
The Pride will play two more conference matches in the next week, traveling to Wellesley on Saturday at 1:00 p.m., and continuing on the road against Smith at 7:00 p.m. on the following Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Then, they will return to Blake Arena where they will host a tri-match on Saturday, Oct. 12 featuring UMass Boston and Roger Williams University at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., respectively.
Photo courtesy of Helen Lucas