Springfield learned its fate when the NCAA released its bracket of 64 teams on Monday afternoon.
The Pride (17-11) put together a Cinderella run through the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament, taking down the top three seeds en route to the crown. As the sixth seed, Springfield became the lowest seeded team to ever win the NEWMAC women's basketball championship.The win capped off a simply remarkable turnaround for the program, which a season ago finished last in the NEWMAC with a 4-20 record and failed to even make the conference tournament.
The Pride had a tough road to the conference crown, upending No. 3 Coast Guard, 57-54 in the quarterfinals, No. 2 Wheaton, 78-63 in the semifinals, and top-seeded Smith, 51-43 in the championship game. This marks the sixth time that head coach Naomi Graves has led the Pride to an NCAA tournament berth.
Jaimie Bickelhaupt (Brookfield, Conn.) leads Springfield, averaging 13.1 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game. Bickelhaupt was named the MVP of the NEWMAC tournament. First-year Ava Adamopoulos (Ludlow, Mass.) chips in 7.8 ppg and 5.3 rebounds per game off the bench while Heather Lewis (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) and Lexi Windwer (Milton, Mass.) are averaging 7.5 and 7 points per game, respectively.
Amherst (24-3) earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, falling short in the NESCAC title game, 62-46 to Tufts. Amherst has seen success in the national tournament, earning five consecutive trips to the Final Four and winning its first-ever national championship in 2010-11. In the latest USA TODAY Sports Top 25 women's basketball poll, Amherst was ranked No. 8.
Friday's game marks the first meeting this season between the Lord Jeffs and the Pride, as the teams have each won eight times in their 16 previous meetings.
The Jeffs have three players averaging double-digit figures: Marley Giddins (11.2 points per game), Megan Robertson (12.9 ppg), and Ali Doswell (10.8 ppg), although Robertson has only played in 15 games this season, being sidelined since Jan. 17.