Coming into last season, expectations for the Pride varied. The team was very talented, but had six freshmen and no seniors on the roster. The squad was young, but had the ability to supply breathtaking moments, and it did.
Springfield defeated the No. 1 team in the country, Amherst College, 71-70, on Dec. 14 in dramatic fashion. In the NEWMAC Quarterfinals, the Pride won in overtime, 85-82, with the help of a Jake Ross floater at the buzzer to send it into overtime.
The Pride had its memorable moments last season, some of the best in recent program history. On the other hand, thanks to the team’s lack of experience, the Pride hit just as many bumps along the way. Springfield went 2-9 on the road in the 2016-2017 season and struggled at times to put games away in the second half. After a rollercoaster of a season, a season that included a huge upset, playoff buzzer beaters, and a stretch in January where the team went 1-4, the Pride finished the season with an overall record of 14-13 – average.
Average in the standings, but well above-average in exciting moments on the court. The Pride will look to get its overall record and and potential for exciting play on the same page in the 2017-18 season.
Player to watch:
The Pride have ten guards on its roster this season. Since there can only be two on the court at one time, the fight for playing time will be tough. But thanks to his impressive passing ability and feel for the offense, one freshman on the team is already looking like he will see extended playing time, and that player is Charlie Clay.
Clay, who comes to Springfield College from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, started at point guard in the Pride’s exhibition game against UMass on Nov. 3. Senior Andy McNulty has been the usual starter for Springfield at the point guard position the last few seasons. If the the game against UMass is any sort of indicator for what the rest of the season might hold, then Clay could see a lot of time running the offense at the point, while McNulty shifts over to shooting guard where a bigger focus on scoring waits for him.
Clay has showed in practice, and at points in the UMass game, that he can take command of the floor on offense and is a smart and vocal defender on the other side. Don’t be surprised to hear Clay belting out defensive shifts and play calls every second he is on the floor this season.
The days of saying that the team has a “bright future” might be ending sooner than we think. After this season, the Pride will be losing McNulty, Brandon Eckles, and Ben Diamond to graduation. McNulty was second on the team in scoring last season with 13.5 per-game and has been a constant presence for the Pride on the court for the better part of three years. Eckles is a relentless rebounder, a force on the low block, can shoot a three-pointer from time to time, and brings up the team’s energy with a couple and-one finishes every once and awhile. Diamond is the glue that holds the locker room together. He is a vocal presence that the once young freshman and the rest of the team listen to, and if the game against UMass is an indicator, he could see a bump up in minutes this season.
Of course the baton will be passed to the new group of leaders next season, but at the end of last year the team lost no one to graduation. This team has been through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows together. If the team wants to make a run at the NEWMAC title, it’s not about waiting until next season or the season after that.
The future is now.