The 2009-2010 Springfield College Women's Basketball Outlook
Entering her 19th season on the Springfield College sidelines, head coach Naomi Graves will lead a women's basketball team in 2009-2010 that will be very young, but which she thinks possesses the talent and drive to contend for the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) title by year's end.
Now that may take some explaining. Because some of the numbers may initially look a little grim. Especially considering this year's team returns no seniors. In the last two years, Springfield relied on some battle-tested players with star power, including guards Tara McCarthy and Christine Cotter, who graduated in 2008, and forwards Lauren O'Connor and Corey Finch, who graduated in 2009. McCarthy, the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year in 2005, scored 1,381 points in her career. Cotter added 1,031 points, and together these two good shooters co-captained the 2007-2008 squad. O'Connor, who had the best shooting percentage in SC single-season history in 2008 at .595, scored 1.156 points through 2009. And Finch, the 2008-2009 NEWMAC Player of the Year, scored an additional 965 career points. These two good-rebounding post players co-captained the team last year. Add that all together, and that's an amazing 4,503 points. And that doesn't include all the points that are missing from this year's squad. When you add them all up, it's about 5,500 points that will have to be replaced.
In addition, last year's squad alone scored a total of 1,725 points. Of the returnees who showed up on October 15, the first day of practice for this season, less than 400 of those points were in attendance.
Yes, it may sound grim.
"But don't count us out quite yet," said Graves, who was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in early October (2009) in the prestigious Ron Perry classification as a player and coach. "I may not be sure yet where the points will come from this year, but I do know that this team will be more athletic than many that I've had in the recent past, and that it includes a lot of pieces to the mosaic that one needs to win. We may take some lumps early, but I think we'll learn quickly, and I wouldn't rule us out come tournament time."
Springfield will certainly miss the low post play that it lost in graduation from O’Connor and Finch, as well as from center Liz Brosseau. Also missing at the beginning of this season will be 2007-2008 NEWMAC Rookie of the Year Rachelle Walker and sometimes starter Meaghan Macarthur due to an injury. Graves, however, will look to several guards this season as she transitions into a guard-oriented offense for the 2009-2010 campaign.
Last season, the Pride recorded its second-straight 16-11 season, rattling off a 10-3 mark in conference play. As the No. 3 seed in the NEWMAC Tournament, SC eventually bowed out in the semifinals, all while trying to lock up its sixth NCAA Tournament bid this decade.
After running the point for Springfield as a freshman, Kelly Murphy returns for her sophomore campaign as one of the Pride’s youngest co-captains in years. Murphy started all 27 games and played the most of any member of the team as she averaged over 33 minutes per contest. She scored 8.6 points per game and recorded a team-best 72 assists and 58 steals. Her 232 points make up the bulk of last year's returning points.
Joining Murphy in the backcourt will be junior Rachelle Walker, who will join the team in the second semester as the team’s leading returning scorer. Last season, Walker netted 9.2 points per game as she continued to be a deep threat for Springfield. A year ago, Walker connected on a team-best 57 three-pointers, shooting just over 33% from beyond the arc.
The third guard to complement the Springfield offense will be junior Abby Connors, the team's other co-captain. After battling with leg injuries throughout her first two seasons, Connors looks to take a more serious role in the Springfield floor game. Connors appeared in 18 games last season, all in the second semester, as she tallied just over four points per game while shooting nearly 44% from the field.
After taking a year-long break from the hardwood due to injury, Amelia Sapowsky appears to be the leading candidate for Springfield’s top post player. An athletic and aggressive six-footer, Sapowksy played 11 minutes per game during her freshman season and registered three points and two boards per game in 16 appearances.
Another post player who will hopefully return is junior Meaghan Macarthur, who emerged last season as a more dependable player for Graves. After having a breakout final few games of her freshman year, Macarthur played in 23 games as a sophomore, starting in 12. Playing behind the likes of Finch and O’Connor, Macarthur played just over 11 minutes per game as she averaged 2.4 points and 1.8 boards per contest.
A handful of returners will add depth for the Pride this season, especially at the guard position. Juniors Kate LaBelle and Ashley Trahan saw limited action as sophomores but will provide positive leadership and will build on their past experiences this upcoming season. LaBelle played in 19 games and heard her name called during the starting line ups in seven contests as she handed out 18 assists while playing 12 minutes a game. Trahan played in 14 games last year and finished the year with 12 points and seven assists.
Sophomore Andrea Butler gave Springfield a spark off the bench as a freshman as she played in 14 games. She will certainly be asked to do more this year as she improves her defense and ability to handle the basketball. It's possible that Butler may be SC's most-improved player if early-season practice is any indication.
Nearly half of Graves’ squad will be seeing their first collegiate action for the Pride as her roster boasts five freshmen and a pair of sophomores who didn’t compete for Springfield a year ago. Undoubtedly, Graves will look to her experienced returners to guide this youthful squad. But SC will surely be banking on many of the younger players to provide depth, and possibly start. Sara Plocharsky, a 5-10 forward and one of the sophomores, seems to be showing the most promise among the newcomers.