Led by Wallingford’s Reilly Campbell, Trinity women’s basketball is headed to NCAA Division III Sweet 16
HARTFORD – The Trinity women’s basketball team lost two key players on Jan. 4 last year in a game against Worcester Polytechnical Institute. Bria Fuller tore her ACL; Frankie Silva hurt her back. They had already lost a starter to an ACL tear in the preseason. Four days later, junior Maddie Stevens tore her ACL in a game at Colby.
The Bantams limped through the rest of the season, at one point down to four players due to COVID and injuries, but still managed to win the NESCAC regular-season title. They lost in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament 57-55 to Bates, and did not make it to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Out of that season was born an urgency and desire to have a better season. Fuller, Silva and Stevens are all seniors. The addition of junior transfer Reilly Campbell of Wallingford midway through last season helped, as Campbell is leading the Bantams in scoring and rebounding.
And this year, Trinity made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997 with an at-large bid after losing to Tufts 57-38 in its first NESCAC championship game appearance.
Since, the Bantams have won two tournament games and will head to the Sweet 16 at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Friday to face Wisconsin-Whitewater, last year’s Division III national runner-up, at 6 p.m.
This is the furthest Trinity has advanced in the tournament and the Bantams are 24-5, setting the record for the most wins in program history.
“It’s been a while, I mean some of our players weren’t born the last time this team was in the NCAA Tournament,” Trinity coach Emily Garner said.
“I believe every challenge sets you up for an opportunity to grow. We had significant challenges last year and it really made us hungry in the off-season.”
Campbell, a center who played at Loomis Chaffee and went to Lafayette for a year and a half before transferring, is a big reason for the Bantams’ success, averaging 16.2 points and 11.2 rebounds.
“I wanted to be closer to home and have a better balance between sports and school,” Campbell said. “I think it was the best decision I made. It’s been really fun.”
Last year, she was thrown into the mix right away when she arrived midway through the season. Many games, the Bantams only had seven or eight players.
“It was exciting because I had kind of lost my love for basketball those first two years,” she said. “Coming in and having all that responsibility – I was ready for it.”
This season, the Bantams have much more depth.
“We have a lot of different options and any one of them can have a big night,” Garner said. “That was something we didn’t have last year.”
On March 3, the Bantams beat Notre Dame-Maryland 58-43 (Campbell had her 19th double-double of the year with 14 points and 19 rebounds) for Trinity’s second NCAA win in program history. The next day, Trinity beat SUNY-Cortland 64-59 in the second round. Campbell had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“My first year here we were fifth in the NESCAC and lost in the first round of the playoffs and we didn’t make the tournament,” said Stevens, a senior guard from Burlington who also went to Loomis Chaffee and comes off the bench for Trinity. “Sophomore year was COVID so we had no season. My junior year I tore my ACL.
“It’s been a really exciting run so far. Each year I feel like we’ve grown a lot and this year it all came together.”