By Hayden Choate
For the first time in 16 years, the Springfield College women’s basketball team is nationally ranked in Division III.
The Pride came in at No. 24 in the rankings last week but after two victories over Worcester State and Connecticut College, giving them a 10-0 record, they are now No. 18.
“I’m excited for our players,” Springfield head coach Naomi Graves said. “I mean, obviously from the coaching perspective you want to be ranked at the end of the season not the beginning but I’m really happy for our team and our players because they’ve worked really hard and they get another reward of saying we’re on the right track.”
This is the first time Springfield has appeared in the rankings since the 2005 season when the team went 22-7 and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Graves remembers her team that year being similar to the group she has this year.
“Yeah, it was a similar team in terms of chemistry and cohesion, a group of kids that worked really hard and played well together,” Graves said.
Although being recognized is always a good accomplishment, Graves wants to make sure that her team builds off of it.
“I’m excited for our team and I’m excited personally,” Graves said. “I think we have to be very careful in how we perceive it but it’s certainly nice to have that recognition, to know that your hard work is paying off and someone’s noticing.
Senior Grace Dzindolet is in agreement with Graves and knows that the season is a long one and there is still a lot of hard work ahead.
“I think our team agrees that it’s nice to be recognized for our accomplishment,” Dzindolet said. “But we also try not to pay attention to it right now ‘cause we’re still early in the season and hoping to continue to grow as a team. We don’t want to be cocky when it comes to preseason wins. The team is focused on coming back stronger in January and continuing to prove ourselves.”
The Pride do not play again until Jan. 1, and there are only two more out-of-conference games before NEWMAC competition begins.
“Being undefeated going into the break isn’t anything we ever talked about or thought about,” Dzindolet said. “We went into every game just wanting to win and to work hard so it’s kind of surprising, but also a great feeling knowing that we still have room for improvement and are still nationally ranked. The girls are excited to see their family and rest up before we’re back for intercession and a lot more challenging games are coming in January so we’re just ready to prepare and start thinking about NEWMAC play starting soon.”
Dzindolet is just one of three seniors on the team in addition to two juniors and two graduate students. The team has seven sophomores and first-years and Graves hopes they will work toward this accomplishment beyond this season.
“I’m just excited that they’re part of the ride,” Graves said. “They’re the ones taking over in the future and they’re going to understand the big picture, and they’re going to understand what did it take our team to do this, how does it get us where we need to be and I think having a younger group, a coalition of younger players they get it they see it, they’re experiencing it and they may want to say to themselves I want to get it again.”
The recognition feels even better especially coming off a year where Springfield practiced all year long but played in one game last April.
“I think what makes it even sweeter for me and this team is last year we practiced the fifty some-odd days with the hope of playing a game and now we’re in the position where we’re playing multiple games, so the part of the gift of this team is they’re just really grateful they can be on the court in Blake Arena, so there’s this understanding that this is a special moment. We didn’t have this last year.”
The Pride begin NEWMAC play on January 8 at home against Smith, who is 8-1 so far this season.
Photo: Joe Arruda/The Student