The Pride, which enters the tournament with a 17-11 overall record, earned an automatic qualification into the tournament with a 51-43 victory over top-ranked Smith College in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship game.
Junior forward Jaimie Bickelhaupt was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after tallying 14 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Emily Gins posted 13 points and 14 rebounds, while freshman center Ava Adamopoulos netted 10 points and picked up four rebounds in the victory over Smith.
After posting a 4-20 record in 2012-2013, Naomi Graves and company came into the 2013-2014 season with high expectations. After starting the season 2-3, the Pride rallied off seven straight wins, including a pair of victories over Maine Maritime and Drew University in the Hampton Inn West Springfield/Naismith Classic, taking home the tournament's first place trophy.
The Pride went on to post a 10-10 record in the NEWMAC regular season, giving them the sixth-seed in the post-season tournament. After losing to the Coast Guard Academy, 43-42, in the regular-season finale, the Pride turned around to defeat the Bears, 57-54 in the first round of NEWMAC tournament to advance to play second-seeded Wheaton College in the final four at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.
Aided by 20 points and seven rebounds from junior forward Jaimie Bickelhaupt, the Pride defeated the Lyons, 78-63, advancing to the NEWMAC Championship game against top-seeded Smith College.
Bickelhaupt came up big again, posting 14 points and eight rebounds to lead the Pride to a 51-43 victory over the Pioneers to claim the NEWMAC Championship title. Bickelhaupt was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for her efforts. Emily Gins posted 13 points and 14 rebounds in the victory, while freshman center Ava Adamopoulos chipped in 10 points and four rebounds.
NCAA Championship Tournament History
Springfield last went to the NCAA Championship tournament in the 2005-2006 season. There, the Pride fell to Messiah, 70-56, in the first round.
The season prior, the Pride made it to the NCAA Championship tournament after defeating Clark University, 79-59, in the NEWMAC Championship.
The Pride went on to defeat Richard Stockton, 64-60, in the first round, Mount St. Mary's, 66-60, in the second round, Wesleyan University, 62-56, in the Sweet 16 and then lost to Southern Maine, 80-69, in the Elite 8. This season proved to be the most successful Springfield College team under the direction of head coach Naomi Graves.
Against The Field
The Pride will be traveling to Oneonta, N.Y. and the campus of Hartwick College to take on Amherst College of the New England Small College Atheltic Conference (NESCAC).
The Lord Jeffs are going into the NCAA Championship Tournament as the runner-up's in the NESCAC conference tournament, while finishing the season with a record of 24-3 (9-1). Amherst fell to Tufts University in the conference championship, 62-46 on Sunday, March 2. Being the first meeting between the two teams this season, the Pride are 8-8 all-time against the Lord Jeffs. If the Pride were to advance past the Lord Jeffs, it will be taking on the winner of Hartwick College and Baruch College.
Of the 64 teams that made the 2014 NCAA Championship Tournament, Springfield has faced 13 of them in their program’s history. This season alone, the Pride only face New York University, falling 72-61 on Nov. 16.
Fountain of Youth
Of the Pride's 1,616 accumulative points this season, freshman or sophomores have scored 1,038 of them, accounting for 64% of the team's offense. Out of the 5600 total minutes the Pride played, this group played 3,351 of them, or 60%.
City of Firsts
Known worldwide as The Birthplace of Basketball ®, the game of basketball was invented at Springfield College by Professor James Naismith.
Jaimie Bickelhaupt was named to the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference first-team all-conference.This is the first NEWMAC All-Conference First Team selection for the Pride since Kelly Slattery earned the honor in 2011.
Bickelhaupt has been instrumental in leading the Pride to its first trip to the NCAA Championship since 2006. The NEWMAC Championship’s Most Outstanding Player, Bickelhaupt powered the sixth-seeded Pride through a Cinderella run that included knocking off the top three teams in the league en route to the conference crown.
This season, Bickelhaupt is leading the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 51.8% (146-282) from the floor. She has produced 13 double doubles this season, which ranks in the top 30 nationally. In addition, Bickelhaupt has produced 43 steals, 31 blocks, and 26 assists while starting in all 28 of Springfield’s games this year.
Friday’s game marks the third game this season that Springfield has played on a neutral court. The Pride opened up the season with a 81-78 victory over Staten Island at NYU, and bested Wheaton, 78-63, in the NEWMAC Semifinals at Smith College.
Bickelhaupt has been consistent all season and ranks 37th in the nation with 13 double doubles. When the junior records double digit points and rebounds in a game, Springfield owns a 9-4 record.
Third Time’s A Charm
During their unprecendented run through the NEWMAC Championship, sixth-seeded Springfield etched its name in the NEWMAC record books, becoming the lowest seed to ever win the league title. After losing to Smith, Wheaton, and Coast Guard by a combined 57 points in six outings, the Pride turned around to beat those three teams by a combined 26 points to hoist the NEWMAC trophy.
What a Difference a Year Makes
The Springfield College women’s basketball team has put together one of the best turnarounds in the entire country this season after a 4-20 record last year. Below is a breakdown of the top five turnarounds in Division III Women’s Basketball this year.
Year 1 (Overall/Conference)
Wisconsin-Oshkosh - 7-18 / 1-15 24-3 / 13-3 17/15
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps - 9-16 / 5-11 24-3 / 14-2 15/13
Bethel University (Minn.) - 6-19 / 5-17 20-7 / 17-5 14/12
Springfield College (Mass.) - 4-20 / 2-16 17-11 / 10-10 13/9
New York University - 10-15 / 3-11 20-5 / 9-5 12/10