By Adam Levine
The Framingham State Rams beat the Westfield State Owls 3-2 in the semi-final round of the MASCAC Tournament Nov. 9.
Anna Szymanki, a captain and a graduate student, said, “We feel fantastic about the win.
“There is no doubt in my mind that tonight, we were the team that wanted it more,” she added.
Sophomore Stella Bailey said, “We all worked hard. With a regular season that didn’t go as well as we wish it did, it feels as though things are coming together.
“Being the fourth seed beating the number one seed was huge, but we knew that it had to be done,” she added.
This victory comes after a 3-0 win over the fifth-seeded Bridgewater State Bears in the quarter-final round of the MASCAC Tournament Nov. 7.
The Rams entered the 2023 MASCAC Tournament as the fourth seed after finishing the season with a conference record of 4-3.
During their win over the Bears, the Rams played five freshmen in their rotation of nine players.
Carly Beaulieu, a sophomore, said, “I was in their position once last year, so it's kind of fresh in my head.
“I struggled with confidence a lot on the court last year,” she added.
Beaulieu said it is important to put in perspective what the freshmen are going through to support them and cheer them on.
Szymanski said, “I believe in them every single step of the way. Having so many freshmen in the starting line-up just shows how powerful they are.
“None of them are freshmen in our eyes anymore - they have a full season under their belt,” she added.
Beaulieu led all players with 17 digs, 10 more than the second highest number of digs in the game.
She said, “I feel like I did pretty well.
“I think that we win as a team and we lose as a team.
“It's a team effort,” Beaulieu added.
Senior captain Hailey Sanders said the Rams “needed” their win over the Bears.
“It shows that we can finish a game and have so much energy through and through,” she said.
Just two nights after their first-round win, the Rams traveled to face the top-seeded Westfield State Owls.
The Owls earned the number-one seed after an undefeated season in MASCAC matchups.
Four of Framingham’s players recorded double-digit kills during the game.
Szymanski said, “All of our hitters owe the defense for hitting double digits. Our passing was on, so our hitting was on.
“We would not be able to hit without defense. Our defenders gave it their all and our hitters finished the job,” she added.
Framingham trailed most of the first set, but held on as much as they could.
Westfield took the first set 25-23.
The Rams dominated the second set early.
They steadily outscored the Owls and took a strong 16-7 lead.
Westfield fought back, but Framingham used its early lead to coast to a 25-18 victory in the second set.
The third set proved to be the closest battle yet.
There were four ties before the Owls broke away.
After the Rams led 15-14, the Owls responded with a seven-point run and led 21-15.
Westfield closed out the third set with a 25-19 win.
Framingham entered the fourth set with their season on the line.
The Rams pieced together a few scoring runs and a steady defense to capture the fourth set 25-21.
The race to 15 points in the fifth and final set began.
Westfield and Framingham battled back and forth, alternating the lead as both teams inched closer to 15 points.
Framingham led 3-2, Westfield led 5-4, Framingham 7-6, Westfield 9-7.
Back and forth, back and forth.
Westfield led 13-11 and Szymanski recorded a kill, which began Framingham’s final push.
Bailey stepped up to serve for the Rams.
She said, “My mindset every time I serve, especially in games as important as these, is, ‘My team needs this right now’ or ‘I am the best person for this job right now.’
“I served well the whole game and I feel comfortable having pressure on me, as I perform for my team and not myself,” Bailey added.
With the help of Bailey’s serving, the Rams scored the next three points and secured the victory, punching their ticket to the MASCAC Championship game.
Bailey recorded a career-high 62 assists in Framingham’s win.
She said, “My work is to put a hitable ball up for my hitters and they pound away at it. We all do our job.”
The Rams travel to MCLA for the MASCAC Championship game Nov. 11.
Bailey said, “I feel incredibly confident.
“Losing to MCLA in the regular season left an awful taste in our mouths. We will work harder. We want it more,” she added.
Szymanki said, “We are extremely excited to go into the championship game. This is what we have worked all season for.
“It’s an opportunity any athlete would kill to have and we are ready to give it our everything,” she added.