February 22, 2022 – Chicopee, Massachusetts
Elms College vs Colby-Sawyer
GNAC Tournament – First Round
When I was a kid I invested everything of myself into following sports. It didn’t matter what it was or where it was played, I was determined to know everything that was going on.
It truly was an obsession. Staying up until 3 am watching college football. Working both of my parents’ computers and the big TV with March Madness on demand back in 2008 to watch as much of the Big Dance as I could (thank god for the TV deal with Turner getting every game on TV).
I once threw a tantrum because I couldn’t go to a college hockey game because I screwed up in school. That was in October, 2001. In my defense, I was 10.
Now I’m 30. I’m married. We have a dog. Hopefully, a child is in the near future. With those changes comes a change in priorities. I don’t watch much sports on TV anymore. It’s mostly just college basketball, Formula 1, and a little soccer and hockey. My wants and desires have changed and making sure I know wholly and completely who the best football team in the Big 12 is just doesn’t matter anymore.
But I still want some of that chaos in my life, some of that roller coaster that comes from investing yourself into deeply following something and giving a piece of yourself over to it. I may be getting older, but I still want to be a little bit reckless.
And with this blog I can be reckless. I can hop in the car and drive seven hours into Maine for a basketball game. I can find myself muttering “what the fuck” to myself as I roll down questionable roads deep in the woods trying to find a campus.
I can pull off at some random shack and get the best meal I’ve ever had. I don’t know what I don’t know when I hit the road, and that’s the thrill. My life will continue to change and go up and down, but this will remain.
I love doing this. I love the purpose and drive it’s given me. I love how close I feel to New England and everything I’ve learned so far and will continue to learn going forward.
And now, here is your moment with Bella.
On this day, the weather was absolutely brutal. Rain all day and rain all night. With that, I didn’t get to see much of Chicopee, but it’s a city with an interesting history.
With a population of just over 55,000, it’s the second-largest city in Western Massachusetts and has a long history of weapons manufacturing dating back to the Civil War. The winner of the annual Chicopee High-Chicopee Comprehensive football game wins a sword manufactured in the city in the 1890s.
The city is also home to Westover Air Reserve Base, the largest Air Force Reserve base in the country. And the Duryea brothers, Charles and Frank, were the first Americans to manufacture a gasoline-powered car back in 1893.
The Good Eats
Lots of good food options in Chicopee. With a large German and Polish population, there are many different types of places to eat. However, tonight I wanted quick and easy, and that made an easy answer: pizza.
You can’t miss the bright red sign of Milano’s as it beckons into the night.
My order was simple: a cheese pizza, a bottle of water, and a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
The pizza was excellent. Chewy, toothsome, well seasoned. This pizza was exactly what I’m looking for. No grease puddles. No cheese trying to escape because it wasn’t constructed to code. You probably won’t find many better pies in Hampden County.
On the other hand, the cookie was big, as evidenced by how much of that box it takes up. And that superlatives end there because it was underbaked, lacking flavor, and disintegrated in my mouth. It tasted like cookies I would get with lunch in high school.
When you go to Milano’s stick with the pizza: it’ll satisfy every time.
Officially known as the the College of Our Lady of the Elms, Elms College opened in 1897 as a girls prep academy in Pittsfield, more than 50 miles west of the current campus.
Two years later the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and the Diocese of Springfield bought the current location and created a normal school on the site. After petitioning the Commonwealth to charter a women’s college specializing in teaching in 1927, the school officially opened its doors as a college in 1928.
The school started admitting men in 1998.
Today, Elms features an enrollment of just over 1,200 students and caters to students who are the first in their family to go to college.
With just 14 buildings on campus, it’s a small and compact place to go to school.
I’m always curious as to what draws someone to go to school like Elms? For the 2021-2022 school year the total admission fee was a tick over $54,000. While there’s certainly a glut of colleges in New England, what draws people to a small college in a suburb of Springfield? There are many other small colleges in the Northeast, and many Catholic institutions too.
How do the coaches recruit athletes? What’s the student life like at a small school like this? If you went to a small, lesser-known school like Elms, shoot me a message. I’d love to know how you found your way to the school and what your experience was like.
Known as the Blazers for an old school tradition of sophomores getting a blazer as a right of passage, Elms athletics revolve around the Maguire Center.
Home to the gym, offices, and classrooms, the Maguire Center acts as the nerve center for Blazer sports.
And tonight it was playoff basketball for the Blazers as they welcomed the Colby-Sawyer Chargers down from New Hampshire.
A small, cozy gym was made raucous due to the running track that circled the court from above.
During the game it became the peanut gallery from hell thanks to a large student turnout.
And the Blazers came flying out of the gate early. Elms jumped the Chargers in the first quarter and led 14-5 midway through the period.
After a quarter it was 24-13 Elms and it felt like, even that early, that the Blazers were going to roll. First-year guard Aiyanalee Lopez (first video) was dialed in from jump street.
Grad student Angelica Peguero-Flores (second video), from nearby Springfield, had a crazy first quarter with nine points, six boards, and a block.
In the second, the Blazers kept pouring it on. The lead grew to 14 as Elms was feeling it. The students were loud, the vibe was rocking, and it felt like the Blazers were right on the precipice of turning the corner and turning the game into one big party.
But tournament basketball rarely goes that way. Slowly and without too much fanfare, Colby-Sawyer slowly chipped away at the gap and got it back into single digits.
At half, Elms led by eight. Immediately out of halftime bang: a three from Emily Parent cut the lead to five.
And suddenly the game devolved into a rock fight as the Chargers clawed back into it. Back and forth it went throughout the third quarter. Peguero-Flores did everything she could for the Blazers to keep them ahead.
But by hook or by crook, the Chargers found a way. With under a minute to go in the third quarter, the game was tied at 47.
Enter Rahmia Johnston. After a first half that saw her play just seven minutes due to foul trouble, the sophomore from Trumbull, Conn. put the Blazers on her back.
That falling layup in the waning seconds of the third quarter ignited a 13-0 run for the Blazers that lasted until midway through the fourth. Johnston had nine of the 13 points.
The run was enough to give the Blazers the breathing room they needed to loosen up, and her teammates closed the show.
Johnston finished with 11 points. Peguero-Flores had a monster game with 24 points (including her 1,000th career point), 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Emily Parent put Colby-Sawyer on her back, but her 18-point performance just wasn’t enough.
Elms 66, Colby-Sawyer 59. Final.
Player of the game: Aiyanalee Lopes – 20 pts, 17 rbds, 4 ast, 2 stl
Time of game: 1:29:44
Always fun to get to a small D3 school. I try to tell everyone I can: go support your local D2 or D3 school. It’s the best deal in town, there was no admission fee for this game, and the intimate settings bring a special type of energy that larger arenas can’t match.
Elms can consider me a fan going forward and I’ll try to catch them at my other GNAC stops.
Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road.