By Joe Arruda
Blake Arena played host to a womens volleyball tri-match where Springfield College welcomed both UMass-Boston and Roger Williams University on Saturday. Senior Day festivities commenced prior to the start of the first match of the day where the Pride recognized their two seniors: Bridget Walsh and Katie vonKampen.
The energy was positive.
The Pride wanted it for their seniors, and they went out and got it.
After a dominating sweep of UMass-Boston, the team in maroon and white returned to the court just hours later where they would matchup with the Roger Williams Hawks. Less than an hour since also defeating the Beacons in Blake, the Hawks were warmed up and ready to continue their success.
The Pride came out victorious after a tight first set which was highlighted by their .324 hitting percentage. Then, things took a turn for the worst.
The defense appeared to struggle against the persistent offensive attack from the Hawks, allowing them to hit at the lofty percentages of .355 and .340 in sets two and three, respectively. But, the Pride was not ready to have its day spoiled.
In the fourth set, the Springfield defense flipped a switch.
While holding Roger Williams at an abysmal .050 clip, the Pride offense, directed by sophomore Sara Labadorf, took advantage and came away with a 25-17 set victory. Labadorf finished with 45 assists.
Momentum was with the maroon as Ashley Tanner came in from the left side swinging, and pounded the ball into the Hawks block.
Bouncing off of the left shoulder of the referee on the tower, the ball fell to the floor.
Out of bounds, and the match was going to five sets.
Ashley Tanner forces a fifth set with her eighth kill of the match pic.twitter.com/jtfbNcQqaw
— Joe Arruda (@joearruda9) October 12, 2019
The Pride would then accelerate to a quick 7-3 lead in the fifth, but Roger Williams was not going down without a fight. After eight tied scores and three lead changes, the win finally fell in favor of Springfield.
“It was a complete team win for sure. We just keep asking our players to respond in adversity, if they’re not doing well, ‘How are you going to respond?’ We can’t just say, ‘Oh, next one,’ it has to be this one. So I thought we did a good job of that,” Pride head coach Moira Long said. “I was really pleased with just the battle. I think going to set five it was like, ‘It is one point at a time, they don’t get a kill and score 10, they only get one. So lets make sure that we’re being forward minded.’”
Senior Katie vonKampen added, “We play a game, ‘Dig or Die’, so it’s kind of that mentality. And you just have to go out every point and play to win. Take it point-by-point, short-term memory, keep moving forward.”
Sophomore Demi Spanos highlighted the day for the Pride. She posted a career best 17 kills in the first game against UMass-Boston, but that would not last long. Just hours later she would top that performance with 24 kills at a .449 clip to conclude the tri-match.
“I just said to Demi, I was like, ‘It is remarkable what we can do when we keep the ball in front of us.’ We have worked on that for the last four or five days, just like, ‘Hey, keep it in front and use hands.’ She has just been very coachable and has thought about, ‘Okay, what do I need to do in this moment?’,” Springfield head coach Moira Long said.
“We’re at the end of set one and she comes out and she says, ‘I feel like they’re blocking me.’ I was like, ‘Well, you got seven kills and no errors, so I think we’re okay, lets just stick with this.’”
For the womens volleyball program as a whole, they don’t think too much of Senior Day.
“Honestly, I don’t think Senior Day is really a big deal for us and this program. I mean we do it, and it’s great and it’s nice that the athletic department will honor them, but our big day for our seniors is really our banquet. We spend a lot of time just talking about what they’ve given to the program, and almost half of the program is about them, so that’s really their moment,” Long said.
Senior Bridget Walsh added, “I didn’t want to think too much of the whole senior thing, I just wanted to focus on the team as a whole, but it was super exciting, the team was so encouraging. But, of course, me and Katie (vonKampen) never wanted to put it on us, it was more of a team atmosphere and it really showed tonight and it was awesome.”
Reflecting on the careers of the two seniors honored, Long made sure to emphasize the personalities that are found in the hearts behind their jerseys.
“They’re both some of the best women I’ve ever known, they have great hearts,” she said. “It’s their leadership and the fact that they model being really great citizens at Springfield College, being very humanic. They’re very humanic women, that’s what I am most proud of. No matter what, when they leave here are they more humanic than when they came in, and then when they move on, what are they modeling when they get out there as Springfield alumns.”
Moving forward, there is a lot of season left for the Pride. With seven matches left, and four of them being in conference play, the Pride will return to practice hungry to continue improving.
“We’ll definitely take the win pretty well, but we just want to continue getting better each day, we’re never satisfied, and we want to keep pushing forward because we have a whole lot more to accomplish this season,” Walsh said.
vonKampen added, “Consistency is what we’re striving for the most. I think we have moments of greatness, and I think we have a lot to offer, and maybe teams might be doubting us now and I 100% believe in this team and everything that we have.”
Next, Springfield will travel to South Hadley, Mass. where they will matchup with a NEWMAC foe at Mount Holyoke College on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.. They will remain on the road for three more matches until they return home on Tuesday, Oct. 22 for another conference matchup against Babson at 7:00 p.m..
Photo courtesy of Joe Arruda