Babson Magazine

Winter 2018

Reaching New Heights

The Babson women’s volleyball program, which has reached new heights under the direction of seventh-year head coach Eric Neely, stepped further into uncharted territory in November by advancing to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 for the first time in program history.

Making their third NCAA appearance in four years, the Beavers were sent to Clarkson University as part of the Potsdam Regional. They defeated Vassar College and the host Golden Knights, but then lost in the regional final to eventual national semifinalist Ithaca College.

Abby Beecher ’19 celebrates a point with her teammates

Photo: Jeremy Viens
Abby Beecher ’19 celebrates a point with her teammates in the regional final loss to Ithaca.

Although the team’s success in the tournament was not a surprise, the actual tournament invite was, notes Neely, given that Babson had lost in five sets to Wellesley in the NEWMAC Tournament semifinals. “We were surprised to get an NCAA bid, but I think it’s a testament to the strength of our schedule,” he says. “We’ve played a vicious schedule the past few years and wanted to be in a position to earn a bid if we didn’t win the NEWMAC Tournament. We were really excited to go to the NCAAs, have a chance to start over, and redefine what our season was about.”

After enduring the long trip to upstate New York, a Babson squad that featured just four juniors and no seniors was unfazed by the moment. A victory over Vassar in the first round was followed by the thrilling five-set triumph over Clarkson, which had advanced to the national quarterfinals in four of the previous five seasons and had won 49 of its last 53 home matches before falling to the Beavers.

The team finished its season with an overall record of 22-10. And despite losing to Ithaca, the tournament run was a tremendous learning experience for everyone. “Being right there with the top teams, our confidence grew,” says Abby Beecher ’19. “We had so much fun in the match against Clarkson. We all play for matches like that, and the weekend showed us that we can compete at the highest level.” The win helped the team realize and believe in its true potential, she adds.

“I definitely saw leadership from some of our top players that we had only seen in small doses earlier,” says Neely. “They demanded excellence and responded to adversity in a super high way, and took to heart the message that you can’t take playoff opportunities for granted.”—Jeremy Viens, athletics communications director