By Hayden Choate
The Springfield College women’s basketball team advanced in the NEWMAC tournament with a 59-49 win over WPI in the quarterfinals.
Springfield went 8-1 in NEWMAC play this season and beat WPI 61-53 on Feb. 12 at Blake Arena. The Pride’s conference record helped them to the No. 2 seed in the tournament and home-court advantage.
“When we set our goals we knew that we needed to take care of business and get a high seed and hopefully be a home team,” Springfield head coach Naomi Graves said.
Graves praised the work ethic of her team which has gone 13-2 in their last 15 contests.
“I just think they’ve worked really hard, they’ve committed to a long schedule of workouts and 6 a.m. things, it’s nice to feel this, this is important,” Graves said.
WPI faced just a five point deficit entering the second quarter. Springfield’s lineup began to capitalize on every opportunity, they outscored the Engineers 22-13, and took a 34-20 lead into halftime.
One of the biggest keys to the Pride’s victory was consistent rebounding throughout the whole game. The Pride led in rebounds 23-14 at the half, and 41-32 at the end of the game.
“For me it’s every game, every day, it’s a possession, when you own boards, you own possessions,” Graves said.
Last year Springfield lost to MIT in the NEWMAC championship, giving motivation to all the returning members of the Posse this season, but Sam Hourihan (22 points) and Rachel Vinton (six points) stepped up and played a huge role in the victory over the Engineers.
“These freshmen we talked when they were recruited that they were going to be impacts, I think our seniors are showing them the way, they’re showing what it means to be a Springfield College posse member in lots of ways, lots of different ways and our seniors are giving confidence to Sam and Rachel,” Graves said.
Vinton, a first-year point guard has been coming off the bench for Alex Goslin all season, credits her team on what made her ready to make a difference in her first career playoff game.
“Earlier this season, I kind of lost my confidence and I’m just starting to get it back so having my team support me through everything that gives you the confidence to play well,” Vinton said.
Vinton finished the game with six points, four rebounds, two steals and a block.
“Rachel has learned how to adjust to the college game a little bit and she flourished tonight, and it’s fun to watch her play,” Graves said.
One of the keys for Springfield’s victory tonight was the full-court press in the second half in an attempt to keep the momentum in their favor. The press is something that Vinton is familiar with and used often while playing for her high school team.
“In high school, we full court pressed every game, every possession, I’m so used to running everywhere, this just flows with my style,” Vinton said.
Springfield will now face Smith College in the NEWMAC semifinals on Friday at Blake Arena. The Pride won both matchups between the two teams, 54-50 at home on Jan. 7th and 72-53 at Smith on Feb. 5th, Springfield beat Smith in the 2019 NEWMAC semi-finals at Smith.
“Here we go” said Graves on the rematch of last year’s semi-final.
Photo courtesy of Hayden Choate