Last season, the Springfield College women’s basketball team lost to MIT in the NEWMAC Championship, 66-50, in Blake Arena. The Pride had previously defeated MIT during regular season play by a score of 58-57.
The team was just about as close as it gets to winning a NEWMAC title, but came up short. So, it’s clear that the Posse has one goal heading into this season: win NEWMAC’s.
The Pride lost two key seniors from last season: Chelsea McAllister and Gracie Restituyo. McAllister had a quiet senior campaign, averaging 8.1 points and three rebounds per game as a guard, though her leadership shined. Restituyo put together a season for the books, averaging 11.4 points and 9.6 rebounds, while picking up 10 double-doubles.
Despite losing McAllister and Restituyo, Women’s Basketball Head Coach Naomi Graves believes her team will still be effective offensively.
“We seem to be reloaded after we’re losing Gracie,” she said. “I think in some ways the perimeter game is going to be more consistent, we changed it up a little bit offensively, more with like almost a four-out, one-in, but then a two-three set so then we’re moving more. I think it gives more opportunities for guards to score, because we lost Cheeks (McAllister) too.”
After losing two graduates, the Pride picked up five first-year players: guards Rachel Vinton, Chelsea Tacey, Bea Bondhus, and Gabriella Heaney-Secord, as well as forward Sam Hourihan. Graves anticipates Vinton and Hourihan will play significant roles early.
“(Vinton) can do a lot of good things, and she’s quick, and she’s taller,” Graves said. “And she plays Alex every day at practice and Alex plays her every day in practice, so they’re getting better with each other… and there’s no drop off. Not that there was a drop off, but there really is no drop off. She’s playing seasoned, I’m amazed.”
“…And then Sam is a big kid we brought in. Sam’s in our PT program, and she’s really, really good. She’s big (6-foot), she can score.”
Players to Watch:
Like most seasons, the Pride’s roster will run deep and have several different contributors. In addition to Vinton and Hourihan making an impact early, the sophomore class could be geared up for a big season.
“Amanda Carr, she’s doing some good stuff,” Graves said. “She’s much more confident stepping up. It’s not all pretty, but it’s okay, she’s scoring. I’m really excited about her.”
Carr, a forward from West Haven, Conn., had glimpses where she shined, putting up a total of 76 points, 61 rebounds, and 17 blocks in 27 games last season. But, Carr isn’t the only one who could have a breakout season as a sophomore.
“The person I’m excited about… Steph Lyons. Man, she has turned a corner,” Graves continued. “Her work this summer, the sophomore class has really bought into working in the summer, coming back better, being leaders when the seniors were off, I mean they just have really stepped up big I think.”
Grace Dzindolet saw the most time out of her class last season, competing as the backup point guard and later as a shooting guard as well. Dzindolet will primarily stay in the shooting guard role this season, especially given that Vinton will get looks as the backup point guard now.
“That’s what she’s really comfortable at, even though she played point guard in high school a little bit, she played a swing position, she’s really, in our system, a better shooting guard,” Graves said of Dzindolet. “And she’s got that whole power game.”
In addition to the sophomores, Madeline Fay is back at full strength this season, as well as Allie Brennan and Lauren Rudolph, who could all make big impacts on both ends of the court.
With a talented returning core, aided by a strong first-year class and a few adjustments offensively, the Pride enters the 2019-20 season with immense potential.
The NEWMAC frontrunners are anticipated to be MIT, Smith, and Babson. Though, the big difference in terms of this year’s schedule is the Pride will only play each NEWMAC team once, as opposed to a round and a half like last season.
“You’ve got to show up and you’ve got to be healthy and you’ve got to beat that team to be seeded, so that’s a big change,” Graves said.
The Pride have picked up a handful of new opponents, including but not limited to, Stevens, Vassar, Montclair State, and Albertus Magnus. Although Graves doesn’t know a whole lot about these new additions, she is confident the teams are competitive and will only elevate the team’s gameplay even further.
One aspect the Pride are looking to improve this season is being able to perform under adverse conditions — taking care of the little things.
“It comes down to little things, and I think one of the things I said to them, and we’ve really worked hard on is that when we face adversity, whatever that adversity be — it might be bad officials, it might be that we’re playing bad, it might be ‘my shot’s not dropping today’ — how do we react and how do we respond? And how do we want to react?” Graves said.
“We want to react as a unit, and we want to respond as a unit, and if we’re having a bad game, we’ve got to personally find something else we can contribute to make things happen for somebody else.”
It all stems back to the core values the team established during preseason: unity, dignity, and grit. If the Pride are able to stay true to these values, take care of the little things, and perform under adverse conditions, they have the potential to be extremely successful this season.
The goal is not ECAC’s; the goal is a NEWMAC title.
“I don’t know where we’re going to fall, but I know that we’re working really hard to do the right thing under the right conditions and one game at a time…” Graves said. “It comes down to conference play and that happens at the end of January, so the (beginning of the season) I think offers us the kind of competition we need to expose our weaknesses and turn them into strengths, so that’s what we’re hoping.”
The women’s basketball team will tip off its season in Blake Arena on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. against MCLA.
Photo courtesy of Jack Margaros