NEWTOWN SQUARE — Springfield coach Ashley Murrin said she keeps hearing that her team should be one of the teams to beat in the Central League. After showing it can take advantage of opportunities and string together points in tight games, it's hard to disagree.
The Cougars outlasted Marple Newtown, 3-0, Monday afternoon, but had to fight hard to win the final two games. After an easy 25-10 win in the first game, Springfield dug deep to win the second, 26-24, and the third, 25-18.
Springfield picked up 10 digs from senior Aubrey Gruwell-Keating, 12 assists by senior Christina Smith and 15 assists from sophomore Amber Dath.
In the match's deciding game, Marple Newtown (0-2, 0-2) had the momentum and rattled off six straight points early to take a 12-8 lead. Springfield (2-1, 2-0) wasn't ready to concede, though, and had a couple of big plays from Rebecca Bennett that kept it in the game. She had a kill at a big moment to keep it a one-point game, at 17-16, and trigger a 10-1 run to end the game.
Bennett served for the final five points of the second game, and the ball rarely was returned, which was all part of her plan.
"I just tried to keep it in play and try to let the other team make more mistakes than we could, just to get us back on track,' said Bennett, a senior. "Most of those serves at the end of the game didn't make it back over the net.'
The second game showed plenty of Springfield's tenacity as well. Down 23-20, Marple Newtown called a timeout and quickly strung together four straight points to give it a chance to even the match score, at 1-1. The Tigers hit their next serve into the net, though, bringing the score even at 24. Bennett said she and her teammates never got frustrated with each other as the Tigers went on a run, which was what allowed them to take advantage when an opportunity presented itself.
"We try to not get down on ourselves,' she said. "We all have a lot of problems with getting mad at ourselves so we try and keep each other from getting mad, so we just try to stick together.'
While that kind of chemistry makes sense for a Springfield team with six seniors, the Tigers don't have that just yet. Marple Newtown coach Herb Staquet said with just one senior and a lot of players who consider volleyball their second sport, giving up those kind of runs that allowed Springfield to put the match away can be expected.
"We give up runs,' he said. "We give up lots of points in bunches and that's going to happen when you're young.'
It might have required critical points at critical junctures, but Springfield is blemish-free through two matches to open its season. The Cougars continue their Central schedule this week, with matches Wednesday against Lower Merion and Thursday at Radnor.
"I keep getting told we're one of the teams (to beat),' Murrin said. "I kind of like to think we are, also. So by the end of the week, I'm looking to be maybe 4-0 in the Central League.'
The Cougars are off to a good start toward reaching their coach's goal.
In other Central League action:
Ridley 3, Upper Darby 0: Mary Kate Rumbaugh (10 kills, 10 digs, two blocks) led the 25-13, 25-19, 25-10 sweep for the Green Raiders (2-2, 1-1). Molly Donegan and Melanie Malseed added 15 and 13 digs, respectively.
Shayna Finn recorded 18 digs for the Royals (0-3, 0-2).
Garnet Valley 3, Haverford 1: Elise Cummings came through with 23 assists for the Jaguars (2-0, 2-0), who rallied for a 21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-17 win.
Julianna Boettger had 11 kills, while Nicole Clayton and Jenna Hostetler combined for 11 aces.
Penncrest 3, Conestoga 0: Jenn Davidson had eight kills, Diana Balta logged nine kills and Andrea Hartmann had 22 assists in the Lions' 25-22, 25-13, 25-19 win.
Giana Gargiule totaled 14 assists for Penncrest (4-0, 2-0).