Gazette reporter Hannah Bevis recaps a crazy winter on the local sports scene

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 03-28-2023 8:12 PM

Though March Madness is usually reserved for the NCAA basketball tournament, March truly is the craziest time of year for sports, especially here at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. 

Between Western Massachusetts and high school state tournaments, as well as the collegiate catalog, the sports department is a whirlwind of activity between mid-February and March. 

This year’s winter sport schedule stretched much longer than normal thanks in large part to two programs – Smith College women’s basketball and Amherst College women’s hockey. After both squads picked up conference championships in the NEWMAC and NESCAC, respectively, they went on unprecedented NCAA tournament runs – Smith went to the Final Four for the first time in program history, and Amherst hosted the national championship, playing for a title for the first time since 2010 and hosting its first Final Four at Orr Rink.

It’s not typical to have this kind of success at multiple local schools all during the same season. Two teams making their respective Final Fours in the NCAA tournament is unlikely at best, but Smith and Amherst made it look easy this winter. 

And it’s not just Smith basketball and Amherst women’s hockey. The Mammoths women’s basketball team just missed the NCAA tourney for the first time in 15 seasons. UMass women’s basketball team earned a trip to its third consecutive Atlantic 10 championship game, and set record after record along the way.

The list goes on and on, but Smith and Amherst’s runs this season really made waves in our sports department. 

When I first joined the Gazette, I remembered being so excited that we got to cover not only a wide variety of high school sports, but different colleges as well. Having a Division 1 school like UMass and a pair of Division 3 institutions in Smith and Amherst that have strong athletic programs is a dream come true for a sports reporter, but I think I took it for granted until this season. 

Smith and Amherst not only qualified for the NCAA tournament, they both entered as the No. 1 overall seeds in their respective brackets – a stat that still boggles my mind. As a result, they were able to host every game possible – Amherst stayed at home all the way through the national championship game, and Smith hosted four games at home before taking a short bus down I-91 to Hartford for the Final Four. 

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Northampton School Committee takes stand for budget increase during emotional meeting
‘Not over it yet’: At 87, Northampton Holocaust survivor joins with others to share her story
Trial run for Main Street redesign: Easthampton aims for safer, more walkable area
Amherst regional superintendent candidate stresses inclusion, broad expertise
Passing of the baton: After 36 years, Don and Sue Grant turn over reins of popular Tuesday 5K in Northampton
Next 5-story building cleared to rise in downtown Amherst

Getting to cover two magical postseason runs in the same year is something that will stay with me for a long time. It wasn’t just that both teams made deep postseason pushes – it’s that they were able to host and keep things close to home, making it easy for us to cover while also allowing the community to show their support at games.

We’re also really lucky in the area with great sports information departments at both Smith and Amherst, and the athletic departments were instrumental in helping us to get the best coverage – specifically Ciara Lawrence from Smith and Kris Dufour and Brad Kasnet at Amherst. 

As special as this March was for championship coverage, I don’t think this will be the last time we get to write about history like this – between Smith, Amherst and UMass, there are a number of teams who have the potential to do something like this again soon. Regardless of what comes next, this late winter/early spring will stay with me for a long time. 

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1. ]]>