For the first time in school history, the Vermont Academy Varsity Girls’ Basketball team won the NEPSAC Class D championship on Sunday, March 5, with a 67-20 win over Southfield. This was Vermont’s first trip to the title game since 2010, having been ousted in the semi-finals last year. Lead by senior point guard Leandra Echi, Vermont Academy started fast and never looked back.
Coming off a strong 17-6 regular season, the Wildcats earned the No. 1 seed in the NEPSAC Class D Tournament and sailed through their quarterfinal match-up against Boston Trinity School, 85-12. The Cats then defeated Christian Heritage 77-6 in the semifinal game to earn a trip to Loomis-Chaffee. With smothering full court defense and an unselfish offensive attack, Vermont defeated Southfield 67-20 to win the crown. With the core of their team playing together for the past three years, and a team motto of “play for each other”, these Wildcats displayed a sense of comradery that was seemingly unmatched. Head Coach Karen Henry began with this team in 2014. “These girls work so hard. I’m so proud of their drive and dedication. They made a decision two years ago to win a championship together. I don’t think anything could have stopped them.”
Senior captain Leandra Echi ’17 (Beacon, New York) was named the NEPSAC tournament’s Most Valuable Player on Sunday. She led Vermont with 19 points and 21 rebounds. Other major contributors on Sunday included Kyra Rideout ’18 (Hinsdale, NH) with 12 points and 11 rebounds and Allyson Erunski ’18 with 15 points.
Along with Echi, Vermont Academy will be losing fellow senior Cara Linder (Townshend, VT). A starter for the past three years, Linder has provided incredible leadership both on and off the court. “Our two seniors have made an incredible impact on both our basketball team and our school community. I thank them for their trust, leadership, and love. We will miss them both tremendously,” said Henry. Echi is currently unsigned, but looking to continue her career in college. Linder will be attending Elon in the fall.
As Vermont Academy looks to next year, seven players will be returning, including four seniors. With experience and skill on their side, the remaining Wildcats will be looking for another opportunity to reach Super Sunday. Says Henry, “It’s a lofty goal, but with the will and determination of this crew, anything is possible.”