By Hayden Choate
When Sidney Wentland made a layup to get her first points as a member of the Springfield College women’s basketball team, the lively Blake Arena crowd gave her an enthusiastic welcome.
The Birthplace is the third stop in Wentland’s college basketball career, playing for all three different NCAA divisions. Her first stop was at the University of Denver in the 2017-18 season.
“I committed with a different coaching staff then the one that was brought on at Denver so my senior year of high school they got let go and I stayed committed and once I got there, it wasn’t what I wanted,” Wentland said.
A year later, Wentland transferred to Div. II Concordia University at St. Paul, which is located 30 minutes away from her hometown.
“My parents got to come to like every game, it was awesome,” Wentland said.
Wentland played three years there including last year where unlike Springfield, Concordia was able to have a full season.
Even though she played all 17 games last season and was named to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference All-Academic Team of Excellence, she still received an extra year of eligibility when the NCAA announced that the year could be made up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wentland wanted to go to graduate school for sports psychology so she applied to a few different schools around the country and looked into playing one more year of basketball.
“Last year I was debating what to do and they (Concordia) didn’t have the grad program that I wanted so I got accepted here, got into the grad program here and I reached out to Coach Graves,” Wentland said.
Although she has a lot of experience playing at the collegiate level, Wentland wasn’t sure if Graves would let her play.
“When I met Sid, I was pretty direct with her,” Graves said. “Why should I invest in you for one year? That’s me, that’s who I am but I’m so glad I did, I have no regrets.”
Wentland wasn’t sure what to expect as a graduate transfer only having one year left of eligibility. She sent Graves some film of her and Graves gave her the chance to try out for the team.
Not only did Wentland make the team, but has been a major contributing factor. She scored 17 points in her first game, which earned her the NEWMAC Women’s Basketball Offensive Athlete of the Week honor. Wentland was also selected to the New England Women’s Basketball Association honor roll after scoring 23 points in last week’s win over Maine Maritime.
“It was surprising, I was not expecting that at all,” Wentland said on being NEWMAC Athlete of the Week. “Then Coach Graves came up to me and was like, ‘Do you even know what that means?’ And I’m like ‘I don’t know,’ then she explained it to me. I was very honored, very surprised and thought it was awesome.”
Wentland and fellow graduate student Summer Matlack are each playing in their fifth years, but are just like the first-years on the team, in that they are new to Springfield College basketball.
“I don’t usually take a lot of transfers, and part of why I really looked at her was first of all, she’s talented, but second of all, she was really receptive to doing the paperwork, getting everything set, trying to get to know us and our program early on,” Graves said. “I’m just really grateful to have her in our program, she fits perfectly, her dedication, her enthusiasm there’s no separation between her and the rest of the team, her and Summer.”
“I think there are a lot of different ages but I trust everyone, we’re all very reliable on the court,” Wentland said. “On my past teams, it’s been like people will sub in and the game will kind of change a bit when you go away from the starters but here we’re very level, we’re very consistent and that’s very awesome to have in the young players.”
When putting her journey as a college basketball player into perspective, Wentland has gone through a lot of ups and downs but feels that right now with this Springfield team is certainly an “up”.
“My senior year [of high school] was very peak. It was awesome. We went undefeated, won state, like the best possible season you could have,” Wentland said. “Then I went in at Denver and had the lowest of the lows, barely played.”
“I started gaining my confidence back and my coach at Concordia helped a lot so just getting my confidence back and love for the game – each year it’s elevated again, hopefully I reach that peak again this year.”
Wentland’s personality helps her fit into the team’s culture seamlessly.
“She’s never put herself above anybody, she’s never put anyone down because she was at a higher level program,” Graves said. “She’s never given anyone the idea that she’s older, wiser, whatever, she’s just met the criteria of being a good teammate, it’s fascinating to me, it’s wonderful.”
Wentland is excited for what the rest of the season has in store for the team.
“It’s been really special for me to be able to come in and feel so welcomed,” Wentland said “Everyone’s been really willing to help me if I don’t know where a class is or something all the girls are like ‘I got you’, and I’m just happy that I have been able to help the team as well in anyway I can. I was so nervous coming in not knowing anyone, but this is the best possible group I can come into.”
The women’s basketball team is 4-0 for the first time since 1998-99 entering Wednesday’s home game against Endicott on Nov. 17.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics