The coronavirus outbreak forced a lot of seniors’ final years to come to a screeching halt, and those in Framingham State uniforms were no exception.
Casey Bradley, Morgan Begley, Grace Gamache, Nicole Pacheco, Jennifer Buckley, and Emily Burnett all saw their collegiate careers cut short.
“It’s been so hard to wrap my head around. There have been a lot of tears, but also a lot of smiles looking back on everything we accomplished as a class,” Bradley said. “That’s what makes it so hard. Our class is so special. The six of us have just given our all to this program and this was our year.”
At the beginning of the 2020 season, this group of six, and the rest of the Rams team, was picked as the favorite to win the MASCAC Conference.
Last season, they fell in the MASCAC Championship to Westfield State, 13-12, as the Owls scored with just 50 seconds left in regulation.
“Coming so close to the trophy last year was so heartbreaking and it fueled us for this year,” Bradley said. “That was everyone’s goal – we wanted a MASCAC Championship.”
The seniors played their final game March 7, at which they won a 23-13 game against Johnson & Wales. The group of fourth years combined for 12 of those points.
But as you can guess, their careers began back in 2017. That year’s team went 12-7 and fell in the MASCAC Semi-Finals to Westfield State.
Gamache claimed one MASCAC Player of the Week award, two Rookie of the Week awards, one ECAC Division III North Rookie of the Week award, and the Rookie of the Year award.
Gamache also landed a spot on the All-MASCAC First-Team, while Pacheco took home one MASCAC Rookie of the Week award herself and found a spot on the All-MASCAC Second-Team.
Then in their second year, the Rams improved to 16-3 and fell to Westfield State again, this time in the MASCAC Championship.
Gamache repeated as a First-Team selection, while Pacheco was named to the Second-Team again.
Gamache led the MASCAC in scoring with 111 points, as she tallied 55 goals and 56 assists. Pacheco put together 38 goals and 19 assists for 57 points.
Then, another senior joined the two in being recognized the next season. Bradley, who had been quietly shutting down the opposition on defense, finally had her role appreciated by the MASCAC Conference.
“She’s been our rock these past few years. She calms the rest of the defense down in tough situations and knows how to get the defenders on the same page,” Begley said. “Defenders are definitely underappreciated because they aren’t the ones scoring the goals and getting points. But they keep us in the game just as much as the attack does.”
Gamache was named to the All-MASCAC First-Team for the third-straight season, while Pacheco repeated for a third year on the Second-Team. Bradley was also named to the Second-Team.
Head coach James Rippey was also named Coach of the Year for the MASCAC. He turned around a program that was struggling to take off for years.
He led the Rams to achieving their first-ever NCAA Regional Ranking in 2018, in addition to the team’s first-ever appearance in the MASCAC Championship Game. He led the team to its season-best win total in 2017 with 12, and then again in 2018 when the team finished with 16 wins. Rippey also coached the nation’s fifth-ranked passing offense in 2018, as the Rams averaged 9.53 assists per game.
“He has turned this program around and we owe it to him,” Gamache said. “He eats, sleeps and breathes lacrosse, and I know we wouldn’t be half the team we are without his dedication and commitment to this program.”
“He’s simply great at what he does. He cares about all of his players,” Bradley said. “It just was amazing to play for him. I always knew he had my back and I can’t put into words how thankful I am to have played for him.”
And in their final season that included only four games, another senior was on her way to her best season yet.
Begley was moved to the midfield position and reaped immediate benefits as she scored 16 points in just four games. This contributed to her 49 goals, 22 assists, and 71 career points in the end.
Buckley wrapped up her career with 10 goals, four assists and 14 points, while Burnett walked away with two goals.
Bradley caused 60 turnovers in her career, and also collected 101 ground balls.
Pacheco dumped in 101 goals, 43 assists and 144 points. She also had 147 ground balls, 121 draw controls and caused 102 turnovers. She etched her name in Rams’ history as she holds the records for caused turnovers in a season (36), caused turnovers in a career (98), and caused turnovers per game in a season (1.89).
“The laughs, the tears, the ups and the downs, those times I didn’t think I could push any harder, my teammates got me through it,” Pacheco said. “Hearing my name called as we went through the lineup is a feeling I will never forget.”
Gamache left her mark as well, finishing with 161 goals, 122 assists and 283 points. She put together 195 draw controls as well.
Gamache walks away with the records for points in a season (111), points in a career (261), points per game in a season (5.84), points per game in a career (5.12), assists in a game (8), assists in a season (56), assists in a career (122), assists per game in a season (2.95), assists per game in a career (2.25), draw controls in a season (114), draw controls per game in a season (6), and draw controls per game in a career (3.59).
“I think reaching those milestones was really amazing, but I don’t think I would have gotten there if it wasn’t for my teammates and coaches,” Gamache said. “I have never been one to focus too much on stats, I just focus on the next play in front of me and winning the game. But it’s exciting to look back and see the progress I’ve made over the last four years.”
However, the stats and accomplishments are all secondary to the memories the seniors built over the course of four years.
One was when the team defeated Westfield State last season in overtime. It was the first time in program history that they dropped the Owls.
“It was such a surreal moment,” Gamache said. “It is a game that I could watch over and over again like I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The team even once tried to boycott a fitness test and all the seniors locked arms and didn’t sprint.
“We created a family down at Maple Street Field,” Pacheco said. “One of my favorite lacrosse moments was when we beat Bridgewater for the first time in school history and my amazing teammates made it possible for me to be the player to score the game winner with seconds left.”
Now, with the outbreak cancelling their last season, the seniors have stepped onto the Maple Street Field for possibly the last time.
“If I could give any piece of advice, it would be to the athletes who aren’t graduating. Just enjoy it. Soak every moment in, don’t complain about going to practice or lift or film, don’t take one second of your season next year for granted,” Bradley said. “Give it your all. Push yourself to be the best you can be every single day. Love your teammates. You won’t remember the scores of every game, but you will remember the special bonds you formed.”
Pacheco said, “As corny as it sounds, we all came from these totally different team names on our shirts and now are all leaving this place as Rams.”
All six seniors will go down their own paths, but one familiar face has something to say.
“This senior class was our first fully recruited group and brought another level of seriousness and dedication to our program. They helped change the program from the moment they joined the team,” Rippey said. “Our three senior captains who have started every game since freshman year [Gamache, Bradley, and Pacheco] and the remainder of the group has added great depth to our team, competition in practice, and embody the selflessness that speaks to our team’s culture.”