Bouncing back from a 4-20 season just one year ago, the Springfield College women’s basketball team made history by becoming the only team to enter the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Tournament as a 6th seed and going on to win the championship.
The Pride outscored No. 2 Wheaton College in the semi-final game 78-62, then followed their impressive performance by upsetting No. 1 ranked Smith College in the NEWMAC Championship 51-43. Both teams had beaten the Pride earlier in the regular season.
One of the most influential circumstances made this an even bigger victory for the Pride. The young team of six freshmen, five sophomores and three juniors rose to the occasion despite their lone senior, captain Tamara Tribble, being sidelined for the second portion of the season due to a fractured thumb.
Tribble entered the role of captain for her second straight season, but neither Tribble nor coach Naomi Graves had any intent of falling into the habits and tendencies of the prior season. Collectively they wanted a change; they wanted to win games.
“The main goal when I sat down with her last fall was what we wanted this to be for our program, for Springfield College women’s basketball,” Graves explained. “We wanted the chemistry and cohesion, the sense of pride and success to come back.”
The attitude of success radiated from Tribble and Graves all the way down through the last roster spot. A precedent was set that the maroon and white were going to leave it all on the court, no matter how young they were, no matter how many wins they had last season, they were “all in” this year.
Entering their second contest of the season against MIT on January 22, Springfield sat respectfully at (9-7), opposed to (2-14) where they found themselves one year prior. The Pride soon had to confront what would ultimately affect the rest of their season – Tribble was forced to come out in the first half due to an injury to her hand, which was later diagnosed as a fractured thumb. Despite this being the last game that Tribble would get to spend on the court with the rest of her team, her leadership began to blossom in other areas.
Tribble soon had to reevaluate her role on the team as a senior captain, and as a spiritual leader.
“My role as a captain changed, becoming more of a leader off the court and trying my best to support and guide my team in the ways I knew how. I always knew they looked up to me and my leadership, but they always remind me and that is rewarding.”
Without missing a beat, the Pride got back to work. Following the win against MIT, the Pride cruised ahead, winning eight of their final 12. Two of those victories avenged close losses to Coast Guard, who they faced in the first round of the NEWMAC Tournament, and to Smith College, who they overpowered 51-43 in the NEWMAC Championship.
“Emily Gins has stepped up huge while I have been hurt,” Tribble continued. “She took on my starting position with no fear and has truly worked so hard for this. It is so much fun to watch her succeed.”
Gins received this week’s female Maroon Club Athlete of the Week for her 30 points accompanied by 30 rebounds throughout the three conference tournament games, as well as a commendable 11-of-12 free throws from the line to secure the NEWMAC Championship victory against Smith College.
Tribble, still not cleared to play due to her fractured thumb, will join Graves on the bench Friday, overlooking her team as they square-off against Amherst College in the first round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.
“One of the most difficult parts of not being able to be on the court is not being able to completely finish my senior year. Although it is hard, it makes it all worth it to just be a part of how far we have come and our success.” Tribble said.
Junior co-captain and team MVP Jaimie Bickelhaupt is another strong contributor who was forced to widen her role on the court with Tribble’s absence.
“Tamara never took a day off since she got injured,” Bickelhaupt said. “She really makes sure that the players on the bench are paying attention and listening. If they need any advice they still go to her. They know that she knows what she is talking about.”
Bickelhaupt’s efforts late in the season clinched her a spot on the NEWMAC All-Conference First Team.
“We won the NEWMAC Championship for her,” Bickelhaupt declared. “We really wanted it for her. She is our only senior and couldn’t play. We really wanted it for her.”
Zach Tolman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org