Playing guard for Amherst College women’s basketball, Maeve McNamara ’15 and her teammates finished an undefeated season on March 18 with a win over Tufts University that clinched the Division III National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship for the team’s second time. Hosted by Calvin College in Michigan, the game ended at 52 to 29, becoming the lowest-scoring championship match in women’s Division III history, according to the NCAA website.
Before the game, Maeve’s coach, G.P. Gromacki, read the team a letter from a 6-year-old girl who had attended each one of their prior games. The letter thanked all 14 players for making this year “the best of her life” and wished the squad luck. Inspired and touched by the letter, the team felt ready to play and win this championship for her and their other amazing fans, Maeve said.
Amherst beat Tufts twice during the regular season, but both games were close—at each halftime, Tufts had secured the lead. Maeve said that because of this history, her team felt slightly unsettled, but they became excited during the championship’s halftime when the scoreboard showed them winning by 14 points. Even so, Maeve added, her nerves didn’t calm until the game was over.
Maeve said the title win required “overwhelming amounts of time and hard work.” In addition to practices six days a week, the team participated in lifting sessions, “shoot-arounds,” team dinners, and road trips—all of which she called the “little things” that helped improve her technique and taught her the importance of staying disciplined. Additionally, Maeve had to stay at school during vacation breaks to practice.
But despite the sacrifices she made for the game, Maeve said seeing the results of countless hours of hard work and having the privilege of sharing those with her teammates and coaches made everything worth it.
“I’ve grown up watching March Madness every spring, marveling at the talent of women and men alike as they battle for a national championship,” she added. “I’ve watched the ceremonies where they cut down the nets, put on the championship hats, and bask in the confetti blasted out of the cannon, so to experience that myself was absolutely surreal.”