By Caroline Gordon
The FSU women’s basketball team walked past the MASCAC 2020 Championship trophy locked in the glass case outside the court as they prepared to repeat history on a chilly February evening when they defeated Bridgewater 84-69.
After the team did not get a chance to win the 2021 MASCAC Championship Game as the pandemic stole their time on the court, the women craved the intense competition and the feeling of winning.
Walter Paschal, head women’s basketball coach, said, “We won the championship on Feb. 29, 2020, then a week later, the world shut down. It’s been a long two years getting back into the swing of things. This year was difficult because of the protocols and kids missing games due to COVID.”
He added despite the challenges COVID-19 presented, it was “very satisfying getting to the end.”
Paschal noted that during his 10-year career as head coach, 2020 and 2022 were the only years the FSU women’s basketball team had won the MASCAC Championship Game.
He said the team had been in contention, but with two MASCAC Championship titles, they are “over the hump,” and the players have finally been rewarded for their hard work.
According to Camille Desrochers, a captain, the team prepared for the championship game by training in the gym, watching tapes of other successful teams, and “giving 110%” during practices.
She added the team’s “love for the sport” also helped catapult them toward winning the MASCAC Championship Game.
Paschal explained how the three captains for the 2022 season, Desrochers, Krysta Padellaro, and Rai Edwards-Thomas, led the team to victory despite missing time on the court due to the pandemic.
“The three captains we had this year were really great leaders during a difficult time. Not being on the court and seeing each other for a year was really, really hard,” he said.
Paschal added, “The captains are the glue of the team. They know the team in and out. They know their teammates on and off the court. They lead and the team follows.”
Desrcochers said going into the season, she was the only player who had played more than one season of basketball at FSU.
As younger players joined this year, Desrochers said she wanted to “show them what the sport of basketball is all about.”
She explained her leadership skills allow the team to hold themselves to a high standard.
Desrochers said the team is “super close” as they eat together in the Dining Commons and spend time together during preseason workouts.
“The fact that we are so close off the court, reflects how we play on the court. There is no question that the chemistry we have positively affects how we play. That is something that contributed to us being successful this season,” she said.
Desrcohers said she “cares very much” for each player. She noted the reason why she returned to FSU for a fifth year was to be able to play with her teammates.
She added, “Being able to represent the University and play the sport I love with some of my best friends is one of the best feelings in the world.”
Juniors Gwen Carpenter and Flannery O’Connor also plan on attending FSU for a fifth year to continue playing on the basketball team.
Desrochers said both Carpenter and O’Connor are “huge contributors to the team” as Carpenter broke the season assist record and O’Connor won MASCAC player of the year.
She added Carpenter is one of the best point guards she has ever played with and O’Connor is a “huge presence for the team.
“We knew that if we passed the ball to Flannery, she would handle the rest,” said Desrochers.
Carpenter said winning the MASCAC Championship Game was “one of the best feelings,” especially because this season, the team dealt with COVID-19 cases and injuries.
“All of the hard work that we have put in since October all came together on that one day. My teammates are my best friends. To see us succeed and win the championship we deserved was indescribable,” she said.
Carpenter added, “It was one of the best days of my life.”
She said the team is looking forward to improving during the off season in order to three-peat next season.
O’Connor said, “Winning the MASCAC championship was so rewarding because of the hard work we put in day-in and day-out to achieve the goals we had set in the beginning of the year – to see our dream come true was incredible.”
She added the team had “a lot to prove coming off a successful regular season,” and to be able to win the MASCAC Championship with her “best friends” was special.
Desrochers said Paschal was a “huge part” of the team’s success this year.
“He and our two assistant coaches, Lauren Donahue and Emily Velozo, work so hard every day to prepare us for what they know we are capable of. They have taught me so much about not only the game of basketball, but life in general. I am so lucky to have such great people to look up to. I really can’t wait to see what the future holds for FSU women’s basketball,” she said.