By Chris Gionta
Springfield College women’s volleyball defeated Coast Guard at Blake Arena on Tuesday night by a score of 3-2, winning the second, third, and fifth set, 25-22, 31-29, and 17-15 respectively.
In a late-game in the regular season with postseason implications potentially on the line, and facing a team with a 6-1 conference record, Springfield certainly treated it as such. Needing six extra points in the third set and two extra points in the fifth, the Pride went the extra mile to ensure a conference victory on Tuesday night.
“I felt like we were gritty,” said Springfield head coach Moira Long after the game. “I feel like we just kind of clawed and dug, and — I mean, set one was not pretty. We were just down big, and not doing our jobs, and being really quiet, and (Coast Guard) has some attackers who can just thump the ball. I think it just showed us that we can dig and dig and dig and even if we’re not playing necessarily our best, we can still fight and be creative to win.”
The first set that Long was disappointed in started even, with Springfield starting out with an 8-7 lead. Then, Coast Guard went on a 6-1 run to make it 13-9, Coast Guard, and force a Springfield timeout. They kept the lead until the end of the set, winning 25-19.
They kept the momentum going into the second set, starting out with a 10-4 lead. The Bears kept a steady lead to a 17-13 advantage. That was when the Pride turned the tide for a five-point streak to give themselves the set lead and force a Coast Guard timeout. Springfield ended up breaking away and winning the set, 25-22.
The third set was perhaps the most back-and-forth, and it stayed that way for an extremely long time. The set seemed to be going the Bears way when they were winning 18-13. Yet, the Pride climbed their way back with a 10-3 run to go up 23-21. The late surge was helped greatly by graduate student Camryn Bancroft, who from Springfield’s 20th to 24th point, scored four of the five on kills.
As the set continued, Springfield found themselves in a conundrum. They ran out of substitutions and found themselves with the 5’1” Claire Dorr and the 5’4” Briana Tovar in the front.
“I literally was like ‘well we’re going to have good ball control because we have all the defensive specialists on the floor,’” said Long. “It literally was just like ‘okay, this is what we’re rolling with,’ and I think when we set expectations it doesn’t matter who’s on the floor, whether it’s the 5’2” kid or the 5’4” kid, you still gotta do your job.”
After Coast Guard tied the third set at 24, it was a tight battle to get the two-point lead to seal the set victory. With the score at 30-29, a Bears player fired a scorcher of a spike that was dug out by Natalie Billet, which seemingly provided setter Sara Labadorf an opportunity to set for a Springfield attack. With Coast Guard eye on potential spikers, Labadorf placed the ball over the net into an empty spot in the Bears’ defense, with it landing for Springfield’s set point, giving them the 2-1 match lead.
Despite the demoralizing third set loss, Coast Guard was able to come back quickly with a strong fourth set. They started the set outscoring five consecutive points, and never ended up trailing for the entire frame. The Pride came close when it was 17-16, but the Bears broke away once more with a seven-point streak; eventually winning the set, 25-17.
In the fifth set, after it was knotted up 5-5, Springfield appeared to break away on a 7-1 run. Yet, when they approached match point with a 14-9 lead, Coast Guard scored five consecutive points to tie it at 14. They each exchanged one point, then Coast Guard committed a service error to give the Pride the 16-15 set lead. Then, to end it, Julia O’Connor found an empty spot in the corner for the final point of the match.
This was a very impactful victory for the Pride. Not only did it improve their overall record to 18-4 and the winning streak to seven, but they brought their conference record above .500 and put themselves in fourth place in the NEWMAC as the season heads towards the seven-team tournament.
Springfield will not be at home for the rest of the regular season, but they still have five games remaining. Their next three will be at Williams College for the New England Challenge, where they will face Middlebury College on Friday, then Williams College and Tufts in a doubleheader on Saturday.
Photo: Danielle Schmelling/The Student