RADNOR >> She didn’t quite know what to say, or how to say it. All you need to know is that Springfield coach Kylnn McNichol was a tad emotional following her team’s 37-28 victory over Mount St. Joseph for the District 1 Class 5A championship Saturday at Villanova University’s Pavilion.
It’s hard to blame her. She loves her kids. And they have come a long way since that summer day in 2014 when McNichol was hired to replace longtime and respected coach, Kim Smith.
“I can’t even believe this is happening,” McNichol said.
Any follower of Delaware County girls basketball knows about the McNichol family tree. Kylynn’s
mom, Mary Beth, has been the coach at Academy of Notre Dame for decades. Her dad, Terry, had a run coaching the boys at Haverford High. Her twin sister, Kacy, recently finished her first season coaching Harriton, which gave fans two McNichol Bowl battles (Ky got the best of her sis both times).
Both played in high school under their mom and coached for the Comets girls basketball club before landing head jobs in the Central League.
There’s no way, in three short years, Ky could have envisioned her team taking pictures at Villanova hoisting a district trophy.
But McNichol is no ordinary coach. The 30-year-old is one of the brightest coaching minds in the area, and she’s just starting to scratch the surface with her program.
“When I was first hired at Springfield, the first goal was to win a Central League championship and that hasn’t happened yet,” McNichol said. “My second goal was to win a district championship and get to the state tournament. In three seasons, we’ve done that. I just said to them, I couldn’t be more proud to be their coach. I’m honored to be their coach and I love these kids. They mean so much to me. I’m just excited to see what the future holds for us.”
There were trials and tribulations in that first year. Springfield was in rebuilding mode when McNichol arrived. The team went the entire first month of McNichol’s rookie campaign without cracking the win column. But four consecutive wins to close the season inspired hope.
Last season, the Cougars stunned Garnet Valley in the regular season, advanced to the Central League final and made it to the District 1 Class AAA tournament. It was clear that McNichol was building something special on Leamy Ave.
“What this senior class has been through, going 0-11 and 6-15 (two years ago), and now winning a district championship their senior year … I’m so proud of them,” McNichol said. “They fought and had a tremendous season playing together. They all bought into our defensive philosophies and I couldn’t be more happy for the seniors to be able to leave Springfield as champions.”
Senior tri-captains Maggie O’Connell, Amanda Hopkins and Erika Biehl went through difficult times together. Then an exciting freshman tandem entered the program. It’s hard to emphasize the importance that Jordan D’Ambrosio and Belle Mastropietro, now sophomores, have had on the team in less than two seasons. Their basketball skill set and high IQ were a welcome addition to Springfield.
“We see how far Ky has brought us, and we appreciate her so much,” said D’Ambrosio, who scored a game-high 14 points in the final. “She’s a great coach.”
“Jordan and I take pride in making a difference for our team,” Mastropietro added. “We just want to help out and do as much as we can during games.”
This season, Alyssa Long, a fantastic lacrosse player who has committed to North Carolina, gave the Cougars a dynamic two-way guard. Like D’Ambrosio and Mastropietro, Long’s ceiling in basketball is extremely high.
It’s conceivable to think Springfield will be challenging for a district title next season, and the one after that, too. With McNichol at the helm, the Cougars seem set for years to come.