Smith Pioneers to begin run in D-3 NCAA basketball tournament

Smith Pioneers to begin run in D-3 NCAA basketball tournament
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 2:25 PM EST
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NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The winter weather is not stopping Smith College from hosting some games in the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament staring Friday in Northampton.

The countdown is on for March Madness as four out of 64 collegiate women’s basketball teams will battle it out at Smith College’s Ainsworth Gymnasium Friday night and the pioneers are the number one overall seed.

Sixteen-year head coach Lynn Hersey told Western Mass News that she and her players are hyped to play in their third consecutive NCAA tournament, but said they are looking at their upcoming contest against SUNY Morrisville like any other game.

“No one’s going to give us anything. We have to go earn it, but I think we’re really excited for the opportunity and looking forward to embracing the moment and attacking it,” Hersey

The Pioneers are coming in red hot, entering the tournament with a 26-1 record, 20 consecutive wins, and averaging 73 points a game. After making the Sweet 16 the last two seasons, for senior Morgan Morrison, the goal this time: win it all.

“I think a lot of people doubt our school just because it’s an all-women’s school. They don’t really see a lot of that. I think we’re doing great things here. We’re showing that ‘Yeah, we’re all women’s, but we’re just as good as anybody else,’” Morrison said.

The season has also featured some historic moments for players like graduate student Katelyn Pickunka, who joined the 1,000-point club and became one of the top 10 scorers in program history. She said having home court advantage to start the tournament is huge.

“We have a long home game win streak going on and we want to keep that rolling through the weekend and having our crowd and community support us is just an amazing thing,” Pickunka explained.

Hersey said she is proud of her players regardless of what happens and has this message before the madness begins.

“It’s all about being battle tested and feeling prepared and confident in any big challenge in their life. I think this is a great example that they will always be able to draw upon moving forward into their careers (and) moving forward into having families,” Hersey explained.

The winner of Friday’s game will take on either Marymount (VA) or St. John Fisher at 7:45 p.m. Saturday. Smith will take on the Mustangs of SUNY Morrisville at 8:15 p.m. Friday.