Following a standout career at Canton, which included four league titles, more than 1,000 career assists, and being named 2014 Hockomock MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, Erin Proctor was not sure that she would try to continue playing at the collegiate level.
It wasn’t until May or June of her senior year that Proctor started looking for college programs that would be a good fit, she explained in a phone call this week. She was already interested in Slave Regina University (Newport, R.I.) for its nursing program, so Proctor took a closer look at the volleyball team as well.
“I chose it primarily for nursing,” she said, “but I was looking at their volleyball program and did an overnight with one of the girls that year and the team was really close and I wanted to be part of that family like we did in high school.”
The Seahawks will be grateful that Proctor changed her mind about playing collegiate volleyball.
With another 37 assists on Saturday morning, in a 3-0 victory over the University of New England, Proctor now has 719 for the season, which is the fifth highest single-season total for a setter in program history (the top four all belong to career leader Taylor Violet), and she is now second all-time in career assists and third in assists per game.
Her assist numbers would likely be even higher if Proctor had been the primary setter all four years. She took on a more defensive role for the Seahawks last fall and had only 110 assists on the season, after recording 425 as a freshman and 339 as a sophomore.
“I did a little bit of setting last year, but towards the end of the season I was playing back row,” Proctor explained. While it was a change of position, it was one that Proctor was comfortable with going back to before she took over the setter position at Canton. “Sophomore year of high school I switched to setter,” she said, “but before that, throughout middle school and everything, I was a libero. It was fun to go back to that for a little while.”
It was also fun to get back to being the primary passer for the Seahawks attack, which has flourished with Proctor spreading the ball around. She admitted, “I’ve kind of liked going back to setting, to what I knew and everything. I definitely like being more involved in all the plays.”
With Proctor back in her usual spot in the thick of the offense, Salve has built a 20-8 regular season record and sits in third place in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) heading into the league’s postseason tournament. The Seahawks had a blip in the middle of the season where they lost four of five games, but are rolling into the playoffs, having won nine straight and 10-of-11 matches.
Salve coach Lauren Parsons said of Proctor, “Stepping in as the senior starting setter can come with some pressure but she never adds pressure to any situation. She loves to compete and when she is challenged her level and ability gets better and higher. She’s quick, scrappy on defense and gets a good amount of touches on the block to slow the ball down. She plays the game all the way around and that is exactly what you want out of your setter.”
Included in that win streak was the program’s first-ever, three-game sweep of Roger Williams University. In fact it was only Salve’s third win in 27 matches against Roger Williams and first win in Proctor’s four years in college. “I’m not sure when the last time we beat them was,” she said. “It was awesome.”
“We found some way to turn things around,” Proctor said about the team’s late-season run, although she admitted it was hard to pinpoint exactly what changed. “I think it just has to do with our mentality and our confidence. We lost one of our star players (middle hitter Annie Donahue missed most of the 2017 season and has been out the past five matches) so just having other girls transition into that role kind of brought us together.”
When asked what attributes make for a strong setter, Proctor replied, “I think it’s just mentality. Keeping calm and keeping everyone else calm when things get hectic and I think I do a pretty good job doing that.” She is asked what has been her biggest improvement from her time at Canton and she responded, “I think confidence-wise, I’m a lot more confident in my abilities after four more years of playing.”
Proctor is no stranger to success on the volleyball court. She picked up the game in middle school, playing for the Canton Cobra clinics, and she fell in love with the sport. Canton won the league title all four years that Proctor was there and was a perennial contender for a Div. 2 state title.
After a year without a championship, Canton earned its 10th league title in 11 seasons just last week. Proctor was asked what makes the Bulldogs such a consistently strong program and she immediately credited head coach Pat Cawley.
“I think obviously Pat Cawley does a phenomenal job,” said Proctor, who added that her former coach checks in each preseason and tries to bring the Bulldogs to a Salve match each season.
“She’s all about the mental game. She’s just always encouraging us to not get down on ourselves and she’s just very encouraging.” Asked whether that is one of the reasons that so many former Bulldogs have found spots on college teams, she answered, “Yeah. Absolutely.”
Cawley helped Proctor find the Salve program and helped with her transition to the college game. “She’s just phenomenal and someone I’ve always looked up to as a coach,” Proctor added.
Proctor and the Seahawks have found their groove this season and they are hoping to carry that momentum into the CCC tournament with their sights set on bringing home a championship. The last three years have ended in the CCC semifinals at the hands of league power Endicott, but there is confidence around the program that this year could be different, despite a 3-0 loss to the Gulls in the regular season.
“I don’t think it was our best performance,” said Proctor about the loss to Endicott in September. “We’ve could’ve played a lot better and given the opportunity I think we can show them that.”
She added, “I think we have a really good shot in the postseason… I think our team chemistry is there and that’s, honestly, sometimes more important than skill on the court.”
As a senior, with her college career entering its final stages, all that is on Proctor’s mind is bringing home a trophy. She reflected, “Looking from when I was in sixth grade playing for Cobra club to now…it went by really fast, too fast.
“Definitely, I want to leave with a championship. That’s really all that’s on my mind right now. It would be awesome and I hope we can do it.”
Salve Regina will open the CCC tournament with a quarterfinal match on Tuesday.