By Cait Kemp
Springfield College, the birthplace of basketball, has gone over a year without hosting a basketball game. Only practices in Blake Arena and lifts down in the P.E. Complex have been on the schedule for the teams, waiting to see if they will really be able to play.
The women’s basketball team ended last season with a heartbreaking, five-point loss in the semifinals of the NEWMAC Tournament to Smith College. After beating them earlier that season, the Pride, nicknamed “Posse,” couldn’t keep up with Smith’s unexpected surge of intensity that was presented that night. That was the last game of their season; soon the postseason was cancelled and the college was sent home due to the COVID-19 threat.
Returning for the Pride are several sophomores and juniors who were key components last year. Juniors Grace Dzindolet, Steph Lyons, and Amanda Carr represent the core of the team, with sophomores Sam Hourihan and Rachel Vinton rounding out the bunch.
Hourihan stepped up as a freshman last season and became a real powerhouse for the Posse. She finished the season with some impressive stats and recognitions: D3hoops.com’s Northeast Region Rookie of the Year and Northeast All-Region Fourth Team, NEWMAC Women’s Basketball Co-Rookie of the Year, NEWMAC First Team All-Conference, NEWBA All-Rookie First Team, and she led the NEWMAC in total defensive rebounds and blocks.
Coming back this year, the Posse was unsure if it would get to play or not. Games scheduled for February and March continued to get postponed or cancelled, and soon they were left with a two game schedule for this spring.
One of those has already been cancelled.
“It’s been a struggle to get that competition because this particular week Roger Williams was supposed to come here and they had an outbreak of COVID on their team,” said head coach Naomi Graves.
Graves took on a roster of 15 student-athletes, seven of those being first-years. Being a young team with only one senior, they were able to focus on skill building and scrimmaging to create a strong team dynamic, inviting the freshmen right into the experience.
“I’m pretty excited about these freshmen, they’re the future and they bring a lot to our program and our team — their skills, their personality,” said Graves. “It is going to be a big change for them, I’m not sure that this one game that we have now with Wheaton College is going to define how they are going to play as athletes just because there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty in general.”
That one scheduled game will serve as the final game for lone senior, Maddy Fay. After not having her senior season, this will be her swansong wearing the maroon and white – a bittersweet ending to a successful career. Fay played in 25 games in the 2019-2020 season and put up a career-high 11 rebounds against Albertus Magnus.
“The person that we’re really excited about playing this game for is Maddy…I think for senior athletes on the teams…this is a really defining moment in their lives, right, because it’s not what they ever were expecting their senior year to be…we want to make this next opportunity at Wheaton be the best it can be because it’s formally the last day she’ll be wearing the uniform,” Graves said.
With the lack of a true season, the team has had a lot of time to focus on things off the court. Juniors Grace Dzindolet and Steph Lyons have taken a bigger role on campus with diversity and inclusion initiatives. Dzindolet was just recently elected the new LGBTQ+ Representative for the Student Government Association, and previously joined the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee of the Student Athlete Leadership Team. She was able to share her story of coming out through the True Colors series. Lyons has shown the importance of being an ally and has worked with Dzindolet through these different actions.
“I think the beauty of Steph and Grace right now is that they’re coming into their own, you can kind of see it,” said Graves.
Through their work on campus they have been able to bring that energy of leadership to the team. This past year with the lack of competition, they have worked to help their team learn more about topics like diversity and inclusion to create a better atmosphere for everyone to be in.
“We stayed connected, we did a lot of leadership Zooms… we got to know the freshmen a good amount, so it was more of a time where we could build relationships off the court, and we kind of prepared for the spring because now we’ve been practicing for three months, everyday” said Dzindolet.
Now, in preparation to face off against Wheaton, the team is anxious to get back on the court for real competition. It will be the first time the seven first-years get to play a collegiate game, and the first time this team as a collective will compete together.
Junior Amanda Carr said, “It’s going to kind of give us a little sneak peak of what our season next year could be…it’s nice that we do actually have the opportunity to play with Maddy for her senior game because not a lot of other teams get that chance.”
They are looking forward to showing their skills and determination that carried them through months of practicing without ever knowing when they would play. Coming back to campus early in expectations with a normal winter season, they have been busy on the court since January.
“I think with this game we can really show the freshmen what “Posse” means, and that true meaning of on and off the court sisterhood,” said Lyons.
Reflecting back on the unique season that the team has encountered, Graves is hopeful that it has brought lessons and mental toughness that will carry over to next season that will give them an edge.
“I think, you know, it’s been a grind, but these kids have really learned a lot of things about life issues and what you can control and not, and their resiliency and their positivity, their encouragement with everything and everything we do has been a testament to the kind of people they are,” she said.
Sophomore Sam Hourihan echoes this notion.
“It’s a grind and sometimes it’s really hard and sometimes you don’t want to be there, but now I appreciate every moment that we have together because it could be the last for the semester.”
Scheduled for Wednesday April 7, at 7p.m., the Posse will take the floor for the first time this year in hopes of using the momentum of a productive season on and off the court to propel them to a victory.
It is not the season anyone wanted or expected, but the one game will give them a chance to show off what they have been working for and will be the end to a hectic year.
Photo: Jack Margaros/The Student