With first place in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference on the line, the Springfield College women’s volleyball team prevailed over previously top-seeded Wellesley College on Saturday afternoon at Blake Arena. With the win, the Pride claimed the top spot in the NEWMAC and improved their season record to 23-5 (8-1).
Reigning ECAC Division III New England Women’s Volleyball Player of the Week as well as NEWMAC Co-Player of the Week, Kelsey McGayhey, led the Pride with 17 kills. Perhaps the most crucial were her five kills in the first nine points of a crucial second set in which the Pride extended their match lead to 2-0 with a 25-11 victory.
Although successful in Saturday’s match, the sophomore outside hitter was quick to credit her teammate and setter Whitney Miller.
“Whitney is such a great setter,” said McGayhey. “I couldn’t do it without her. If there were no passers and no setters there is no hit. As a team we played exceptionally well today.”
After winning the first two sets 25-14 and 25-11, it appeared as if Springfield would be able to handle Wellesley in the third set with ease, but a string of miscues and attack errors held the Pride from defeating the Blue in straight sets.
Following a kill that was tipped out-of-bounds by junior Amy Entel, the Blue vaulted out to a 21-19 lead in the final points of the third set, beginning to distance themselves from the Pride.
With a block from senior middle hitter Kira Jordan and a kill from freshman Brooke Fieldman, Wellesley took a 24-20 advantage. The Blue closed out the set when junior setter Molly Giannattasio committed a service error, giving Wellesley a 25-22 set victory.
The fourth set followed much of the same guidelines, as miscues and attack errors littered the stat sheet for the Pride, who dropped the set 26-24.
Tied 2-2 heading into the final set of the match, Springfield came out firing on all cylinders behind the powerful arms of McGayhey and senior outside hitter Tessa Smolinski. Three kills in the final set, including a seemingly groundbreaking strike from Smolinski, pushed Springfield over the edge, allowing for the Pride to win the fifth set, 15-11.
“We played very well in the first two sets,” exclaimed Smolinski, who tallied her 1,500th kill in her four-year career at Springfield in the first set. “We were excited and we came out strong, but I think we played well overall. It was our goal all along to get the top seed in our conference.”
Entering the NEWMAC Tournament on Tuesday, head coach Moira Long knew that this victory would be important for her team’s momentum moving forward.
“I think what’s great is that we are taking something away from everything that we are doing so in this, obviously serving was a bit of an issue,” said Long. “In points, we started to doubt ourselves at the baseline. The good news was that when it came to set five we were able to regroup and do that. It showed that we can get some pressure and battle back.”
The Pride will be back in action on Tuesday in the NEWMAC Championship Quarterfinals, which will likely be held at Blake Arena.