by Abi Hillrich
The Greenville College women’s basketball team has gained quite a bit of attention this year, after a record-setting season. They competed in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship for the second year in a row, won the NCCAA North Central Region, and ultimately ended up winning the NCCAA D-I National Championship. The championship win can be put in perspective by recognizing that this is the first time a D-III team has won the NCCAA D-I women’s basketball championship. The team also set a single-season wins mark by posting a 23-9 record.
Coach Mulholland – the coach of the women’s team for the last 18 years – recognizes the incredible achievements this team has accomplished. You can tell Coach Mulholland is proud of his team from the moment you walk into his office. Strewn across seats, hanging on walls, sitting on the bookshelf, and propped on the floor are awards and recognitions of this talented team.
Among these awards are the national championship banner, the 2017 SLIAC Sportsmanship Award and a host of all-conference awards — both athletic and academic. There is also a frame leaning against the wall that Coach Mulholland talks of with great passion; he plans to hang it next to the rest of the awards soon. It is a framed neon orange pinnie, such as ones that the third team (JV players) frequently wear in practice. Mulholland is just as proud of this as he is the other awards. It is signed by the JV players, he explained, and is representative of their hard work to keep the team united and encouraged. “Every player wants to score and be the star, but other players are doing significant things to help us win that no one will ever see,” Mulholland said. He also relayed several stories of fans approaching him after the championship game to say that they were impressed by the spirit and engagement of the bench during the game. Mulholland appreciates every member of his team and acknowledges that there was no way they would have made it so far without great team chemistry, support and encouragement.
“Even if we did not win the national championship, this still would have been a phenomenal group of young ladies to coach,” Mulholland boasted, with the humility of a coach that recognizes the accomplishments of his team. He believes that teamwork won them the championship. “We were not the most talented team at the national tournament; we were just the best team.” Without the strong relationships between the women on the basketball team, there would not have been a way to beat so many strong teams.
Mulholland also applauded the growth he has seen from the players throughout the season. Personal, relational, and spiritual growth have all been clear through the trials the girls have experienced. The most significant part of coaching to Mulholland is watching the faith of the athletes grow. “I would give up a lot of national championships for someone to come to Christ,” he said with conviction. Incredibly, he has been able to experience both. From the relational point of view, Mulholland has also seen a lot of growth; he acknowledged that just watching the girls grow in their roles has been a great encouragement to him as a coach.
Mulholland said that he coaches so that it is not merely “sport for the sake of sport.” Like many coaches at Greenville College, he seeks improvement in his players in all areas of their lives. This is a goal that has been fully achieved by this year’s group of women, who are well-rounded, talented, and accomplished. The Greenville College women’s basketball team is a team we can be incredibly proud to call our own.