Northampton grad Amanda Mieczkowski helps Assumption women’s basketball set new standards with Elite 8 run

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-24-2023 7:58 PM

The tears flowed in Assumption’s locker room after the Greyounds fell against Minnesota Duluth in the Division 2 Elite 8.

Northampton graduate Amanda Mieczkowski, a junior and captain, embraced the team’s two departing players senior Monica Spain and grad student Jay’Lyn Armstrong.

“Obviously we were disappointed that we lost. We couldn’t have been upset for too long. We really made history,” Mieczkowski said. “In the locker room after the loss all of us were sad because it were over, not because we lost but because we wouldn’t be able to spend time in practice every day with our best friends.”

Assumption experienced its greatest season ever in 2022-23. The Greyhounds reached the Elite 8 for the first time in St. Joseph, Mo., and authored their best ever start at 11-0.

“Before this season we were talking a lot about what we wanted to be. We wanted things to change,” Mieczkowski said. “What we did this year was something we didn’t even imagine.”

The team went 12-13 in 2021-22 after not participating in the 2020-21 season. Assumption fielded five seniors but couldn’t translate it’s off court chemistry to the hardwood.

“Last year we were pretty good friends off the court but on the court no one felt comfortable calling each other out. Or if someone made a good pass you wouldn’t point at them,” Mieczkowski said. “That’s all you saw this year was how connected we were.”

The Greyhounds returned nine players but had to integrate four freshman into the fold.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Northampton school superintendent: Union’s no-confidence vote shows ‘lack of courtesy’
Northampton panel member’s reappointment opposed after ‘ugly’ handicapped access remark
Former social studies teacher returns as principal at Northampton High School
Easthampton Skate Club launches crowdfunding campaign to expand at Eastworks
A ‘Refuse to Lose’ reunion: UMass stars gather to talk about Final Four run for new documentary
Father’s Day 2024: South Hadley’s Rich Marjanski cherishes era coaching his three daughters on the soccer pitch

“It was unpredictable. We had to get all of the underclassmen to buy in to what we want to do. They did a great job adjusting and committing to the process every day,” Mieczkowski said. “The approach this year was it started with changing the culture of our team, holding the standard at a very high point, meeting them every day a doling each other accountable if people weren’t.”

That began in earnest with the exhibition opener Oct. 30 at UMass. Mieczkowski felt at home from working out in Amherst over the summers, growing up down Route 9 in Hadley and playing high school basketball across the bridge in Northampton. She had family both in the stands and on the opposing sideline with her cousin Lynne-Anne Kokoski on the Minutewomen’s bench as an assistant. Though UMass overwhelmed the Division 2 school with its size, Assumption left that game confident in its team.

If they Greyhounds could run with UMass, they could play with anyone. They didn’t lose again (or officially) until New Year’s Eve, running off 11 wins in a row. That included a triple-overtime thriller 81-76 against Queens College in Flushing, N.Y., on Dec. 17.

Assumption’s Teagan Curran hit a game-tying 3 with six seconds left in the first overtime, and Mieczkowski knotted the game at 70 in the last 30 seconds of the second overtime.

“That was a crazy game. That was the point where all of us realized how difficult the process was going to be,” she said. “After that point we realized we can win games, but if we go down it’s all about how we respond and how ewe react and lifting each other up instead o not controlling the game. It’s all in the way we respond to things.”

The Greyhounds appeared in national rankings all season and even climbed into the top 10 for a stretch. Coach Kerry Phayre and her staff kept their eyes on the court.

“Although those are great for recruiting, we never even batted our eye at those. We said rankings don’t mean anything and that’s how we got to this,” Mieczkowski said. “Last year we were so much talk. We were like, ‘we’re gonna win this, we’re gonna do this.’ But there weren’t a lot of actions behind it.”

Assumption’s actions won out. They finished the rest of the regular season 10-4 and finished tied atop the Northeast 10 standings. The Greyhounds earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament but fell in the semifinals. They felt secure in receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament but were stunned when they appeared atop the East Regional rankings and earned the right to host the first three rounds as the No. 1 seed.

“This is something nobody on our team had ever experienced before. Losing in the conference semifinal was heartbreaking for a lot of us, I was like, ‘I guess we’ll see what happens at NCAAs,’” Mieczkowski said. “A lot of us didn’t realize the weight of hosting the NCAA regional tournament until we got in that atmosphere, the most unforgettable experience any of us will ever have.”

Assumption’s fans packed Laska Gymnasium in Worcester for three rounds. The Greyhounds averaged 662 spectators across three games and defeated Dominican University of New York, conference foe Bentley and Jefferson to reach the Elite 8. They made program history by even appearing in the regional final and took it a step further.

“We would not have won those games without the support of our entire school. They did us so much good over that entire weekend,” Mieczkowski said. “Even when we went to Missouri we felt their energy and support.”

Though the two graduates were important parts of the team, Assumption will return the vast majority of its roster next season. Mieczkowski hopes to lead them even further.

“This year we realized our potential. We all know the standards,” she said. “It’s just a matter of holding them high.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>