By Gabby Guerard
Every day at practice, the Springfield women’s basketball players hit the court and compete. The coaches keep scores in everything: rebounding drills, shots, you name it – they count it.
And the teams are always switching. No one is ever sure who will come out on top.
“Out of my years here, these practices have been some of the most competitive,” senior Alex Goslin said. “Our coaches have created an environment where we’re constantly competing against each other in practice and it’s hard and it’s good, because it makes us better for the games… We’re used to being in those high stakes situations.”
So far, all the competition in practice has paid off for the Posse when it matters most. The Pride are currently 15-6 overall, and 6-0 in NEWMAC play.
While some may fear the constant in-house competitions could negatively impact the chemistry of the team, that couldn’t be further from the case.
“It’s something I think our team really talked about and developed. I think their drive is that we were so close last year and we want to put ourselves back in that position,” head coach Naomi Graves said. “We can feel the chemistry. We can feel the unity.
“I think it means giving up something valuable, something from yourself to somebody else, and I think they just bought in.”
After coming up short in the NEWMAC Championship last season, the team has its eyes set on one goal: getting back there and winning it all. But in order to do so, the players know they need to work as a unit.
That doesn’t mean getting upset if someone else starts. That doesn’t mean forcing a shot to buff up individual stats.
That means making the one-more pass – not because Coach says to, but rather, because it’s the better shot for someone else. That means leaping off the bench and shouting when someone hits a shot – not because that’s how one is “supposed” to act, but rather, because of the genuine excitement for a teammate to succeed.
“It doesn’t matter who gets what, it’s that we get ours, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day,” Goslin explained.
But it’s not just the starters who have stepped up, either.
“We have a lot of strong players coming off the bench and making an impact and I think it makes us really hard to scout and play against, because you never know who’s going to take over…” Goslin added. “We’re hard to defend, like you can’t just stop one, two, or even three people. Everyone can make an impact.”
It’s easy for athletes to get sucked into the selfish thinking about wanting more playing time. But the Posse is focused on the long term goal, and will do whatever it takes to be successful.
“There’s very few people and very few teams that can be totally like, ‘This is my role and I’m going to do it and this is going to make us be successful and I’ve got to stay in my lane,’” Graves explained. “’Like, if I stay in my lane, I’m good. If I start to want more, it’s like, I’m not so good, the team’s not so good.’”
It’s not just one player who’s responsible for the selfless attitude that the team has embodied. It’s a full program’s effort.
When a player is having an off-day or struggling in a game, they’re not just met with encouragement from the players on the bench. They’re met by assistant coaches, team managers, a strength and conditioning coach, and an athletic trainer.
“You have this group of people that’s like, ‘You got it when you go back in, you’re going to do great, you’re going to turn it around!’ like having that little message at the end of the bench from Coach Tommy or Max, we don’t ask for that, they just naturally do it,” Goslin said.
Though, the encouragement stretches far beyond the games. For example, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Tommy Boyd, is at practice every single day, and doesn’t hesitate to hop into drills.
“Coach (Graves) will reference (Coach Tommy’s) running drills and then Coach Tommy, when we’re in lift, will reference what Coach (Graves) said during practice earlier, and it’s such a good connection and it helps us transfer everything from lift, to off the court stuff, to on the court stuff,” she added.
“Just the cohesion among (us) and the messages that are being relayed to us are just being consistent, which is so helpful and I think that’s also another reason why we’re ready to lift each other up, is because we have coaches and we have support off the court that’s lifting everybody up.”
But he’s not the only one. Max Mita, the team’s athletic trainer, has worked to keep players healthy and injury free – a daunting task considering the regular season alone stretches four months long. And well before the season even starts, the assistant coaches are hard at work recruiting kids to come play for Springfield College. Without them, the talent that comes in every year could look drastically different than it does now: first-years Rachel Vinton and Sam Hourihan, who is also a starter, picking up consistent minutes each game.
Then it’s up to the players to work tirelessly creating a strong dynamic and unity among the group – something the leadership team of Amanda Carr, Lauren Rudolph, Emily Jacques, and Goslin, have all devoted themselves to doing. Though, leadership comes in many forms, whether it’s Taylor Hall setting the tone in the paint picking up offensive rebounds, Steph Lyons steadily outworking opponents game in and game out, or Grace Dzindolet coming in hot off the bench and making her minutes count as an offensive threat.
Every single player on the roster has had an impact this season, and that depth and unity has created a versatile team that’s hard to stop.
“I really want this team to finish where they want to finish, but you can’t control that (from the sidelines),” Graves said. “So it’s all about the journey. It’s all about every one game. You come out of the game and you’re like, ‘Wow, that was fun’ and then you go to the next game…”
And it’s clear how this team wants to finish: winning a NEWMAC Championship. But in order to get there, it’s going to need to be a full-program effort.
Because it’s not just “one thing.” It’s unity.
Featured photo courtesy of Lucy Hamilton