Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Magic Ends

The trip to St. Louis was magical in a lot of ways. It was stressful and never-ending, yet exciting and it never felt like it was real. Even on the plane, I had to take a moment to realize where we had come from and how we got here. When we got to St. Louis, the only thing we wanted to do was take pictures next to every single championship sign and get our free stuff. We were living in the moment and pretending like we were professional athletes.

After a long night of rest we had our first practice in the gym. Once again I had to look around and take a moment to remember why we were there. We continued our day doing community service at a homeless shelter. The day was fun and it was a great experience to work together and help others.

That night we headed to the All-American banquet where we listened to speeches and awards. I looked around at how poised and calm the other teams were and then I looked at our team. We were all laughing and moving constantly like we couldn’t sit still anymore. I think a lot of us just wanted to play volleyball and we didn’t understand what all the hype was about.

When Friday morning came I was restless. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to do anything but play volleyball. Waiting for our game to begin was torture and when the time finally came we were ready.

In five games we watched our season come to a conclusion, and despite all the anger and sadness inside of me, all I could really do was feel proud. Together we all dominated New England volleyball for three months and took ourselves to a place we’d never thought we’d be. We reached our goal to get to the Elite 8, and even though I wish it didn’t stop there I couldn’t be happier because of what we achieved. I wish I had four more years with Coach Long and the underclassmen, and I wish I could relive this season over again. I was a part of something magical and seeing my teammates grow and Coach lead us will leave an imprint on my life forever.

I don’t think our team will have any regrets and I don’t think we could ever look at the season negatively even if we tried. I am so proud of what we accomplished and I'm honored to have been a part of this team; not only this year but for all four years. We put Springfield College Women's Volleyball on the map, and we proved everyone who doubted us wrong.

The road to St. Louis may have ended and so has our season, but the love that has built between our team and Coach has helped us overcome every difficult moment this year, and this is no exception.

Love wins.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

St. Louis Here We Come

I still haven't caught my breath. It still hasn't hit me yet. But whether I'm ready for it or not SCVB is going to St. Louis as one of the final eight Division III teams left in America still playing volleyball. We are the NCAA Regional Champions and we've accomplished almost all of our goals...that is except for one. We want a National Championship.

This weekend was like a dream. Hosting NCAA Regionals on our campus, in our gym, with our fans. We got revenge to two teams that we've been dying to play all season. It started with Tufts. They had beaten us earlier in the season and we knew if we saw them again it would be a tough match. They played hard and put up a real good fight. However, in four games we found ourselves going to the Regional Championship against UMass-Boston, abd in the same situation we were in exactly a year ago. For the returning players on our team we knew what this meant, and for all our first-year players they understood how badly we wanted to beat them. They had beaten us last year in title game in five games and this year we decided it was our turn.

I'll give you four words to describe why we won that game. Teamwork, Believe, and Tessa Smolinski. Our team was on fire, there was no stopping our momentum, and even though there were some moments that gave us a scare, we fought through our fear. The difference between last year and this year was that this year we truly believed we could win that game and go to the Elite 8. EVERYONE on our team showed up to play, and I mean everyone. There was not one person on our team that had a look of fear in their eyes and we knew we were ready. Tessa probably had the best game of her life and it could not have come at a more fantastic moment.

We were down 22-20 in the fourth game, and when Coach took a timeout, I think we all decided that this game wasn't going to five and we were going to end it right then and there. We came out of the timeout on fire. We rallied and pushed and fought our way to 22-22. With Meaghan Hart (one of our most consistent servers) on the service line and Tessa and I in the front row, it was time to finish the game. Tessa put down a tricky ball to make it 23-22, then I blocked their middle to make it 24-22. It was then that we all knew. A hitting error on Umass Boston gave us the title and the emotion I felt at that moment was not comparable to anything else I've ever felt. It was like winning the NEWMAC Championship on steroids.

With all of our emotion and confidence we head off to St. Louis on Wednesday morning to face Carthage in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship. We do believe we could win big this weekend and we are ready for whatever comes our way. IT'S NOT OVER.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NEWMAC Champions and Beyond

"Just because you deserve it doesnt mean they are going to give it to you, sometimes you have to take whats yours." -Coach Carter

Going in to the NEWMAC tournament emotions were high. We haven't won NEWMAC's since my freshman year and to start off as a NEWMAC champion and end as one is a fantastic feeling. We started off the tournament with MIT in a energetic 3-0 match. I have never had so much fun playing with that team, ever. We were all smiling and laughing so much for the entire match. It felt so at ease, and it kept our confidence high going in to the championship on Sunday.

I'm not sure it would of mattered who we were going to play in the championship, but I can say that we wanted to get some serious revenge against Wellesley. They were one of the two teams we lost to this season and it might of been the worst games of our lives when we lost to them. We wanted to prove to them and everyone else the type of team we really were. We also wanted to prove that we could live up to our hype and not choke in the finals. We did just that.

We started off winning the first two games of the match in an extremely competitive run. However, in typical Springfield fashion we hit a little bump in the road and let up the next two games to them. We got ourselves in a hole and it was hard to dig ourselves out, until the fifth game. Our team always says that we were made for fifth games. We practice fifth game scenarios everyday in practice and for us it felt like a piece of cake. The game was in our house, on our court, with our fans, and we wanted to claim that title more than anything. We played together in that fifth game and with relentless defense. We executed well and played Springfield College Volleyball which is the number one way that we will always win games.

The feeling I had on match point of that fifth game was indescribable. All the hard work and effort we put in this season paid off and we accomplished one of our many goals. I think I'm still living on cloud nine and to top it off we got some fantastic news Monday morning. We will be hosting the 2011 NCAA regional tournament in Blake Arena this weekend. We are also the number one seed going in to it. I couldn't ask for more. I get to continue my season with my team and the other seniors in our own gym, on our turf. There couldn't possibly be a better scenario then this and I could not be more proud of our team for getting us here. NCAA's here we come!!!!


Monday, October 24, 2011

What a Weekend

This week started with a 3-0 win over WPI on Tuesday. It was also our Senior Night. It might have been our last home game this season, as well as the last time that Kim, Meaghan, Jenna, Itza, and I ever play a game in that gym. It was one to be remembered because of all the love our teammates gave to us, and because of the way we played. We didn’t think at all, we just played volleyball. For our team, that is when we play the best and that is what makes us unstoppable.

This weekend we had a tough lineup of three NESCAC teams at the Volleyball Hall of Fame Invitational. We played Bowdoin on Friday night, and it may have been one of the best matches we have played. Bowdoin was recently ranked ahead of us in the New England poll, and to beat them in three sets was a big statement. The fire our team had during that match was uncontrollable and we weren’t going to stop until we came out on top.

Unfortunately, the next day we learned what happens to us when we do think too much. We lost to Tufts in four sets. Our mental game took control of us and we didn’t execute the way we should have. However, we handled it the way we handled losing to Wellesley; we talked about it and moved on. We moved on by beating Middlebury in four sets in a very competitive match. This was huge for us because just the night before Middlebury had beaten Wellesley in four sets.

Overall, it was a very important weekend for us and, despite our loss, we played Springfield College Volleyball and made a big statement in the New England Region. This team loves a challenge and when we face one, we fight. I believe that now we have enough experience of adversity under our belt to stay grounded and continue to improve everyday to get better and achieve our goals. With a record of 27-2 there is little to be disappointed with, and we especially have a better understanding of what it feels like to lose and none of us ever want to feel that way again.

Before this weekend’s tournament I was watching the movie Secretariat, which is about the greatest race horse of all time. He was a horse that nobody expected to win because he was too young, too inexperienced, and too unbalanced. He had the speed but no one believed he had the stamina. He went on to win nearly every race he ran, and when he lost his second race there was a quote said by an actor that really stuck with me. “One loss is okay, but two is non-performance.”

I believe this to be true and it made a lot of sense after this weekend. This horse then went on to win the Triple Crown, set two race records that still stand today, and is considered one of the best EVER.

I kept on thinking about our team while watching this movie. People thought we were too young, too inexperienced, and too unbalanced. People thought we had the talent to win, but that it would never last. I’m not so sure that we’ll be the greatest volleyball team to ever have lived, but I’m pretty sure that for the remainder of this season we are going to prove to a lot of people that our passion for success will overcome any flaws we may have.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ups and Downs

This past weekend was pretty incredible for our team. We hosted the Tom Hay Invitational, and went 4-0 to earn the tournament championship. Despite the success, the way that our team played was out of this world. Everyone's game has continued to improve and everything seemed to come easy. Our two setters, Molly Giannattasio and Whitney Miller, were unstoppable. They showed that despite being freshmen, they can lead this team and do it with confidence. We had our first five-set match of the season against Plymouth State, which was great for experience. Getting that out of the way was a big stress reliever. Overall, this weekend was great and improving to 21-0 helped us rise in national rankings to #18.

However, this Tuesday we hit our first speedbump. We lost to Wellesley in four sets in an exciting match. Unfortunatley, we really beat ourselves, and our errors were enough to give them 45% of their points. Wellesley has always been a tough competitor for us, especially since the rivalry dates back to before most of us were in high school. We have learned from the loss and we're over it. Now we're looking forward to playing in a tough tournament this weekend at Clarkson.

I think it's important for us to continue to look at the big picture and realize that being 21-1 and #18 in the country isn't too shabby. Losing is a necessary part of improvement and it gives us even more incentive to work harder. There is a deep passion within all of us for this team, this program, this school, and I have complete confidence that this won't hold us back.

As we travel to Postdam, N.Y. this weekend on a six hour bus ride, there is going to be a fire that will burn within us until we enter that gym at 7:00 pm on Friday night. I can promise you that when we get off that bus, we are going to bring an explosion of energy that will help us continue our great season.

I love this team.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Continuing to Improve

Having this past weekend off was exactly what our team needed. Our practice on Monday was so energetic and fast it was like we were a new team. It’s amazing what a little rest and relaxation can do, not to mention every person on our team was having withdrawals from volleyball. We couldn’t wait to play Smith on Tuesday and just get back in the swing of things, and that’s exactly what we did.

I had an interview with Jimmy Kelley from the Springfield Student newspaper this week (pretty awesome kid) and when he was asking me some questions about myself and the team, it made me think a lot about how far we’ve come.

He asked me how I thought the team had felt going into this season after we had gone so far in NCAA’s last season. It made me think about everything we have achieved as a team and everything we have overcome.

Going into this season I think that most of us were wiping the slate clean and ready to start a new journey with Coach Long. However, we had no lack of confidence or belief from what we could achieve. It has been our goal since day one to go farther than we had last year, achieve more than we had a season ago, and to make sure that this would be anything but a rebuilding year.

Most people in the volleyball world probably assumed we were going to collapse considering we lost three All-Americans and our head coach. Well to those people I would like to politely say, “NOT UP IN HERE.”

We bought into Coach Long even before preseason started and now, only a month later, it’s like we’ve known her for years. We have players on our team that stepped it up so much it’s easy to wonder why they were never playing before. You look at Mary Consol, who had to fill some seriously big shoes and start for the first time in her career at Springfield. Now all of a sudden, she’s leading the NEWMAC’s in blocks and is nationally ranked in blocks per game. It's players like her that makes Springfield a consistently good team and program.

We have a big tournament coming up this weekend here at Springfield and we are expecting all four games to be very competitive. I have complete faith that we will continue to get better every day and prove to everyone that we deserve to be 17-0 and #20 in the country.

I love this team.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Off To A Nice Start

September 28, 2011 - This season began with a lot of changes. A new coach, new players, new method of play, but our purpose remained the same as it always had been; be the best team we can be.

We have since played 16 games and have come out victorious in each and every one. One of our biggest victories came on Saturday afternoon when we clinched the MIT Invitational Championship. The last time Springfield has won that tournament was in 1995, and for most of us seniors, this one meant a lot because we know how we have struggled there in the past.

For me, it was amazing to see our team be truly tested, and to see a different type of fire and fight that I haven’t seen before. Granted, it might have been the 97 degree weather inside the MIT gymnasium because of a lack of air circulation. All I know is that we dug deep to get that championship, and it meant a lot for our season.

On Tuesday, we played rival MIT and beat them in a tough 3-0 match. . After a long weekend, it was a struggle for us to pull things together, but we did just in time. In typical Springfield fashion.

I think for a lot of us, it has been a long journey since pre-season and the upcoming weekend off has come just in time. However, the interesting thing is that we don’t want to stop working. We are tired, both mentally and physically, yet we can’t stop talking about all the things we need to work on.

That is why I love this team. We are 16-0, ranked 21st in the country, and we still know we have not even tapped our potential. That is the beautiful thing about playing on this team - settling is not an option and being the best is never good enough.

We won’t stop until we reach our goals, and we are going to get there by continuing to be the best team we can be; Together.