Springfield College women’s basketball look to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament this season

Gabby Guerard
@gabbyguerard

Storyline:

Last season, the Springfield College women’s basketball team came up short in the NEWMAC Quarterfinals, as the fourth seed was upset against fifth-seeded MIT, 66-55, after defeating the Engineers in the regular season.

The Pride finished their 2017-18 campaign with an overall record of 20-9, and a conference record of 12-4. The team averaged 61.8 points per game, shooting a 39.7 field-goal percentage, 29.6 three-point percentage and 71.8 free-throw percentage. The Pride also averaged 41.4 rebounds and 15.4 assists per game.

That team was led by senior captain Heather King. The Lebanon, N.H. native started all 29 games and averaged 8.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

“King was a good presence on the court and did some really great things for us,” reflected head coach Naomi Graves.

While the 5’ 11” forward made a significant impact on the court last winter, “There were no major changes because we lost Heather King,” said Graves. Given that King was the only senior, much of the core remains the same, with the addition of five new freshmen. Graves is confident that there are a number of players who will step up this season.

Going into the 2018-19 season, the team is hungry for a NEWMAC Championship and is ready to do whatever it takes to get there, including a new adjustment to their gameplay.

“We wanted to change some stuff up this year, so that we’re looking at more of a ball-screen offense, which I think is going to meet some of the other players’ needs better,” explained Graves. “I think we’re just trying to reinvent ourselves a little bit, not for any other reason.”

While this is different from past years, the players’ energy and enthusiasm coming into the season has been instrumental to making the adjustment effectively.

Players to watch:

Although basketball is a sport that only starts five players, the Pride’s roster always runs deep. Last year, nearly 70 percent of the roster played in at least 75 percent of all games.

With this many consistent contributors, it would be impossible to pick a single-most player to watch. The Pride depend on one another to function as a unit, and that will be evident considering how many players are anticipated to play important roles this season.

There are five incoming freshmen, all of whom Graves sees making an impact. Right from the start, Amanda Carr (West Haven, CT) is anticipated to contribute greatly. At 6’ 1”, Graves believes, “She’s really going to step up, I mean, I have high expectations of her. She’s doing great.”

Additionally, Holliston, M.A.’s Grace Dzindolet will get immediate looks as she takes the role of backup point guard, a position that had been open since last year. Rounding out the class are Stephanie Lyons (Braintree, MA), Megan Graves (Deerfield, MA) and Bridget Reddington of Portland, C.T., all of whom Graves said will contribute in different ways.

“Part of the reason why it’s in different ways, is because they’re behind more experienced players,” she said.

In terms of the returners, the group is strong.

“Allie Brennan will see some more action this year, so I’m pretty excited about her,” said Graves.

Additionally, the trio of junior point guard Alex Goslin, senior guard Chelsea McAllister and senior forward Gracie Restituyo will continue to play instrumental roles. Last season, Goslin, McAllister, and Restituyo led the team in both scoring and assists, averaging 11.1, 10.9 and 12.2 points per game respectively, alongside 3.8, 2.4 and 1.6 assists per game, respectively. Yet, their roles aren’t just restricted to statistics.

“I think our leadership right now, Gracie has done a great job, Alex continues to do a great job, and Chelsea is doing some really good things, so we have some really great leadership right now,” Graves said. But leadership is easy right now- leadership becomes tough when it’s midseason. [The season] never ends, it’s like four months.”

Outlook:

With a strong returning core, aided by five new freshmen, as well as a few new adjustments to their gameplay, the Pride have immense potential this season. The team kicks off their season on the road for the entire month of November, including three games against NESCAC opponents Williams, Tufts and Middlebury. While Graves certainly doesn’t like that that’s how the schedule ended up, she’s not really concerned.

“I think it’s going to make us figure out who we are early, and it’s going to be a good chance for us to see our strengths and things we need to work on when we get to the conference,” she said. “We’ve got to be tougher than everybody, because we’re on the road. We’ve got to be mentally ready for this. We can’t change what the schedule is, but we can change our outlook at the schedule, so that’s how the approach is going.”

In terms of conference opponents down the line, there is expected to be a top five that are all relatively even: Smith, Babson, WPI, MIT and Springfield.

“I’m hoping with our depth we’ll have a better balance, but we’ll see,” said Graves.

It’s a long season for the women’s basketball team. For the regular season alone, it’s 99 days from their first game on November 10 at MCLA to their last regular season game scheduled for February 16 against Clark University.

Including preseason, that number jumps to 125 days, plus each day the team earns for postseason. That’s more than a third of the calendar year that the Pride will need to focus on working towards their overall goal.

“We loved our experience in the ECAC [Tournament], but we really want to be in that NCAA Tournament,” said Graves. “We’re going to work hard, I know that, and we’re going to play hard, and we’re going to do some good things, so I’m excited.”
Photo courtesy of Springfield Athletics

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