Springfield, Mass. - November 10, 2013 -The Springfield College women's volleyball team grinded out a thrilling five-set victory over Wellesley College in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship in Blake Arena. The Pride won by the scores of 25-21, 25-22, 14-15, 19-25, 15-11.
With the win, Springfield College improves to 25-5 and earns the NEWMAC's automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Championship. Wellesley drops to 28-6 and will anxiously await to see if it earns an at-large bid when the field is announced on the national selection show on Monday morning at 11:00 am. The selections will be streamed on NCAA.com.
The Pride has now won three NEWMAC Championships in the past six seasons, with titles in 2008 and 2011. This also will mark the fourth-straight trip the NCAA Championship for the Pride, having earned at-large berths in 2012 and 2010 to go along with its automatic berth in 2011.
These two teams previously squared off for the NEWMAC Championship in 2011 in Blake Arena, when the Pride prevailed in five sets. That Springfield squad would go on to win the NCAA Regional Championship and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time since 1996.
Springfield's Amy Entel (Berkley, Mass.) was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the Championship as she racked up a match-high 20 digs. Daniella Crismani (San Francisco, Calif.) produced a team-best 14 kills to go along with nine digs, while Lauren Holt (Granby, Conn.) controlled the middle with nine kills and six blocks. Tessa Smolinski (Hebron, Conn.) added nine kills and 14 digs. For the match, Springfield finished with just a .178 hitting percentage, its third-lowest of the season.
Wellesley received a herculean effort from Sydney Carfagno (Los Angeles, Calif.), as the junior pounded out 25 kills to go along with 11 digs, three blocks, and two aces. Traci Hamanaka (Burbank, Calif.) collected a team-best 15 digs, and Courtney Lang (Seattle, Wash.) recorded a match-best seven blocks.
In the opening set, the Pride seized a 13-8 lead after Crismani put a ball away in transition to force Wellesley into a timeout. The Pride continued to surge ahead, building its lead to 18-11 on a kill by Holt. Wellesley fought its way back, using a kill from Carfagno to make it a two-point game at 20-18. Holt delivered a timely ace to put Springfield up 23-18, and after a Wellesley ball-handling error gave the Pride set point at 24-21, Smolinski ripped her first of the match kill off the block for win.
In the second set, it was the Blue that owned an advantage throughout as it took a 19-16 lead following a kill out of the middle by Caitlin Laughlin (St. Louis Park, Minn.). The teams traded points until Carfagno struck again with a kill to maintain a three-point cushion at 21-18. Springfield then put forth an incredible burst, pouring on a 7-1 run to take the second set, 25-22. Holt and Crismani combined for a monster block to give Springfield it's first lead of the set at 23-22, before a Purcell kill and Wellesley attack error gave Springfield its second set win.
The match then turned eerily similar to the NEWMAC regular-season finale these two teams played just eight days ago on November 2, when Wellesley rallied from two sets down to force a fifth set. The third set was all Wellesley, as it stormed out to a 7-2 lead thanks to a trio of Kellyn O'Brady (Garden City, Mich.) aces. The Blue totaled five aces in the set, and coupled with four kills by Courtney Lang (Seattle, Wash.), made quick work of the Pride en route to a 25-14 win.
The Blue carried that momentum into the fourth, taking a 4-0 lead after a Loughlin and Lang block. Springfield responded with the sets next four points to even things, and would eventually earn a 14-12 lead after Holt and Purcell combined for a block. However, Wellesley benefited from O'Brady's tough serving again and put together a 6-0 run to regain their own two-point cushion at 16-14. A Runge ace would get Springfield within one at 18-17, but that's as close as the Pride would get as the Blue forced a fifth set by rattling off a 7-2 spurt for the 25-19 win. Carfagno had three kills in the burst, including the final kill to force the fifth.
Springfield came out focused to begin the force and used a pair of kills from Crismani and kills from both Holt and Kelsey McGayhey (Shelter Island, N.Y.) to race out to a 4-0 lead. As they had all match, Wellesley responded by the remarkable play of Carfagno, as she produced a block and three-straight kills evened things at four. Crismani would then rocket a kill off the Wellesley block to put Springfield ahead until a Pride service error would tie things at nine apiece.
Crismani sided out again for the Pride, and with Entel at the service line, Springfield put forth a 3-0 run to take a four-point advantage. Holt registered a thunderous solo block at 13-9 to cap the run as the home crowd sensed the win with . The Blue made one final push, with an O'Brady kill and Lang and Laughlin block making it a 13-11 contest. However, Springfield would not be denied, as a pair of Wellesley errors gave Springfield the conference title.