The Springfield College women’s basketball players entered Blake Arena with tears in their eyes – as did the parents. The entire Arena was decorated with pink streamers, balloons, and signs: “Taylor” “Alex” “Emily” “Rudy” “Posse over everything.”
It wasn’t just any game. It was senior day.
Though as soon as it was time to take the court, the team knew just what to do. The women put their emotions aside and channeled it into the game. In the end, the Pride defeated Wellesley College 49-36.
The Pride were off to a hot start in the first quarter. The team went on a 14-point run, with Wellesley not getting on the board until the final 23 seconds. The Blue were able to gain some momentum in the second quarter of play, but still struggled offensively. Wellesley shot 11.1 percent from the field in the first half, largely in part to the Pride’s defensive efforts.
At any given point of any game throughout the season, Springfield College women’s basketball coach Naomi Graves can be found shouting “HANDS!” from the sidelines, with her eyebrows raised, arms extended, and fingertips spread wide.
But today, the Pride hardly needed the reminder.
They had their hands up the entire game, palms in the passing lane, and swarmed Wellesley players as soon as they got the ball. Or sometimes, picked off passes before the Blue could even get the ball.
“I think our defense completely led to our offense. I thought our kids did great defensively…” Graves said. “But I thought our offense at the end of the game looked great. They were loose, they were composed, they were showing different looks out of our Navy, handoffs, I thought it looked like a team, they were relaxed, it was awesome.”
But executing the “little things” didn’t stop there.
The Pride came out of halftime with a 22-8 lead, and it only grew. Springfield went on an eight-point run at the end of the third quarter, extending into the fourth. In the end, the Pride topped Wellesley 49-36.
Though just as emotions ran high before the game, as soon as the buzzer sounded at the end, they all came rushing back.
“It was hard because at the beginning, I’m a very emotional person, everyone knows it. I was just kind of like, ‘Wow, this is the beginning of the end,’ because now all the senior stuff is going to start to happen, like this just kind of really hit hard,” senior Lauren Rudolph said with a smile. “But the main focus was looking forward to the future, because we’re not done yet. This isn’t our last game, so really just making sure that we’re really buying in and keying in to what we need to get done.”
Rudolph wasn’t the only one feeling emotional. Jacques, too, thought about what this game meant to her. But, looking at the big picture was what helped the senior get the job done Saturday.
“It’s obviously a little emotional, knowing that this is your least regular season game wearing THE jersey and all that,” Emily Jacques said. “But we know we’re going to be back here. We’ve got playoffs coming up, so we’re super excited about that. Just getting another chance to get back out there with the team, it’s everything.”
The team is headed into playoffs with a 9-1 NEWMAC record. That’s the best record Posse has had in years – and it was spearheaded by the senior leadership all season.
“These seniors, the impact, it’s hard to imagine the program without them next year. Every year I say that when the seniors leave, but these four have been impact seniors. We had three of those seniors starting, that’s an impact class. That’s a class that’s made a huge difference,” Graves said. “And for a large degree, they’ve started almost all four years, not quite. Alex was the first one that started, but if they haven’t started, they’ve been a player off the bench.
“So, this is going to be a big loss for us, but it’s not over yet. And so for me, they’re leading the way. They’re on the bus, they’re doing the stuff that we need to do. Now is the time to be determined. I’m excited for them. To be 9-1 in our conference, that’s a big deal, and the conference is really talented.”
Though, it’s the type of leadership that’s been passed down throughout the program for years. The lower left section of the bleachers were filled with Posse alumni Saturday: Ava Adamopoulous, Danielle Racette, Molly McCausland, and Molly Altholz, the first three of whom were seniors when the class of 2020 were freshmen.
“It’s kind of crazy (that they were there). It comes full circle,” senior point guard Alex Goslin said. “Like in my head, they’ll always be our seniors, and now we’re the younger group’s seniors, so it’s kind of fun. It’s cool, and it’s so nice that they come back and support us. You could just feel the love and support. That is what comes along with Posse.”
Posse, the program’s identity, is forever. Once a member of the Posse, always a member of the Posse. And just as these alumni came back to support this year’s seniors, the class of 2020 will continue that legacy.
“It’s feels good to be a senior, all the love from everyone today. We’ve got old Posse members coming back to support, the tradition goes on and on,” senior forward Taylor Hall said. “So next year I’ll be back for senior day, the following year I’ll be back for senior day. We’re a big family, so it just feels warm and welcome and I love it!”
But before the torch is officially passed, the Pride will grear up for the final games of 2020 season. And everyone has their eyes set on one thing: finishing what they started last year.
In the 2018-19 season, the Pride came up short in the NEWMAC Championship in Blake Arena. However, they will have the chance to earn an opportunity to get back there next week when postseason play begins.
“I think we’ve got to find ways to just find our rhythm in offense better,” Graves said of what the team will focus on heading into the NEWMAC Tournament. “We’re running, but when we run, we rush, and so we take quick shots or we rush and get frustrated because the shots don’t drop. I think we have to do a better job of running and then figuring out if we can finish in a run or if we have to get right into the system right away.”
Springfield has locked in the No. 2 seed for the NEWMAC Tournament. The Pride will host the No. 7 seed Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the NEWMAC Quarterfinals. The No. 7 seed has not been finalized at this time, and will depend on how the remainder of games shake up Saturday afternoon.