The Springfield College women’s volleyball team has made its way back to the NCAA Division III tournament. This marks Springfield’s 16th appearance on the big stage and the ninth under head coach Moira Long.
After a heartbreaking loss to MIT in the NEWMAC championship on Nov. 12, an NCAA Tournament bid was expected, but not a guarantee. Just a day later, it became reality as it was announced during the selection show that the Pride earned an at-large bid, and would face off against Wentworth Institute of Technology on Thursday, Nov. 16 in the opening round at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA.
The last time Springfield made the NCAA tournament was in 2021, when the Pride reached the regional semifinals. In the first round the Pride took down Rowan 3-2 before being swept by Johns Hopkins in the regional semifinal.
Springfield wasn’t the only NEWMAC team to make this year’s NCAAs tournament, as it was joined by Babson and MIT. Just like Springfield, Babson was an at-large bid while MIT earned automatic qualification by winning the conference tournament.
Springfield had a chance to host, but were reverse swept by MIT in the NEWMAC final. Long spoke about how the team handled the loss.
“Nobody really wanted to leave the gym after the loss,” Long said. “Everyone kept congregating and asking me about our chances for NCAA’s and where we might go. For me, it’s trying to keep it in perspective. It’s disappointing that we didn’t win the championship, but that doesn’t negate everything we accomplished this year.”
The Pride boast a strong team this year, led by Riley Donahue, who was recently named 2023 NEWMAC Volleyball Athlete of the Year. Donahue led the league with 3.74 kills per set, 4.29 points per set and ranked second in kills (365).
Long and her assistants Emma White and Meredith Hollinger were also honored as the 2023 NEWMAC Coaching Staff of the Year. They guided the Pride to a 26-4 overall record and an 11-0 mark in NEWMAC regular season play and earned at-large bid to NCAA Tourney.
Wentworth received an automatic bid after edging out a 3-2 victory over Endicott College in the Commonwealth Coast Conference Championship.
The Leopards spot a 23-5 overall record, and come into the contest riding a 15-game winning streak. Despite the large win streak, Long isn’t concerned.
“We don’t look and say, ‘Oh man they’re on this win streak’ and let that be something that we’re concerned about in any way, shape or form,” Long said. “We really focus on what we need to do. Prepping for that and serving tough, running our middle and being fast to the pin is how we’re going to conquer that.”
The host of the regional Springfield was drawn into is No.1 Juniata, which is the reigning national champion. Despite the looming threat, Long is focused solely on playing Wentworth.
“It’s one step at a time and to go to Juniata is a great opportunity for us,” Long said. “We got to get past Wentworth, it’s a step-by-step process for us. Our mentality is what’s next, and right now it’s to practice, get better, get to Wentworth, and if things go our way against them then it’s what’s next.”
The Pride clash with the Leopards at 11:30 a.m on Thursday. The winner moves on to regional semifinals to play the victor of Mary Washington vs. Hunter on Friday Nov. 17
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics