Rebounding without seniors

The varsity women’s basketball team shoots for a championship year led by junior captains

At the last home game of the season there will be no posters, no streamers, no balloons. There will be no sad team dinner to commemorate those graduating seniors that have helped to shape the program. There is reason to celebrate, but without a single senior on the women’s basketball team this year, there will be no senior game.

Even though the team lacks senior leadership, this does not mean that the team is short on drive. With seven experienced juniors stepping up, women’s varsity basketball coach Craig Simmons is confident about his team’s chance to succeed this season.

“Not having any seniors really doesn’t impact you as long as you have some upperclassmen who can show the young players how to get acclimated to our conference, as well as how to lead for the next wave of players to come through the program,” he said.

According to Craig Simmons, past teams have consisted of more underclassmen than upperclassmen, but with seven juniors on the roster, the team will benefit from having more experience. “With having seven juniors, the one thing we have a luxury with this year is leadership and experience,” he said.

Junior shooting guard Cassidy Kupchinskas agrees that having more upperclassmen gives the team an edge. “I think this is an advantage because four of our [returning] upperclassmen have [over two] years [of experience] playing in the A Conference,” she said.

Junior point forward Nikki Hunter agrees that the team doesn’t need seniors to be successful. “We have very good captains and a lot of leaders on the team. Our coach always tells us that we are the seniors of the team, even though we are juniors,” she said. “If one girl doesn’t know the answer to a question, there are still a lot of other girls who are very experienced.”

With having seven juniors, the one thing we have a luxury with this year is leadership and experience

— Coach Craig Simmons

According to Craig Simmons, Hunter has stepped up this season to compensate for the lack of senior leadership. “Nikki has come back this year with a laser focus on her game. She has been a great presence for us on the interior,” he said.

Hunter said that being an upperclassman has really encouraged her to be the best possible player for her team. “I know my team needs me, so I have tried to be the biggest force in the game that I possibly can,” Hunter said.

Craig Simmons also cited junior point guard and second-year captain Savannah Simmons as a key leader for the team. “Our returning captain, Savannah Simmons, has done a great job of leading this team to the point where we are currently. Her off-season work with her teammates and incoming freshmen has really made a difference in their preparation for the upcoming season,” Craig Simmons said.

As an upperclassman, Savannah Simmons feels that without any seniors, her leadership is more vital than in past years. “It is crucial that I display even more leadership than I have before,” she said. “Being six feet, I have tried to focus on grabbing more rebounds so that I can help out the rest of my team and push the ball.”

Supplementing the junior veterans are an influx of new players on the team. “We have a couple key transfers and freshmen that came in this year and are projected to help us out big time,” Savannah Simmons said. According to Craig Simmons, this group includes four transfers who have experience playing basketball at an elite level.

Savannah Simmons is hopeful that this new group of strong players can help bring the team its first championship since 2012. “Our team has not had a very good name and record over the years, but we’re hoping this is our turn-around year and to win a championship soon,” she said. “We were recently just ranked no. 13 [by the Baltimore Sun], so we are super excited about that.”

We are all so close, and I know I have ten other sisters that I can go to about anything

— Junior Nikki Hunter

So far, the new players are meshing well with the team. “We have been all practicing and playing together since our summer league, which was in July, and since then, we have really grown together on and off the basketball court,” Kupchinskas said. “Everyone is so funny, and when we are all together, we seriously have the best time.”

Savannah Simmons believes the team’s chemistry will help them find success this season. “It’s never any fun when you’re on a team where there is drama or cliques. Our team has none of that, which is why I think we play so well together on the court. We all have great friendships with each other, which is why I think of these girls truly as my second family,” she said.

Hunter considers the family aspect one of her favorite parts of being on the basketball team. “We are all so close, and I know I have ten other sisters that I can go to about anything. We all have each other’s back and are one little family,” she said.

Christina Giovanazi is a Sports Editor for The Patriot and