What do you do when the thing that you strove for, dreamed of and wanted more than anything else in the world doesn’t live up to your expectations?
If you’re Sandwich resident Caroline Wilson, you simply reassess your dream and follow your heart. After two unsatisfying seasons playing Division 1 basketball at Merrimack, the 2018 Sandwich High graduate thought it was time to do something different. She liked the people at Merrimack, but not the situation she was in. She knew she could play D1 ball, but sitting on the bench, waiting for a chance that might never come, was frustrating.
Over the summer the former Blue Knights’ all-star entered the NCAA’s transfer portal and began to look for something new, a change of scenery that might kindle the flame inside that had always raged to play ball, but was beginning to fizzle. Sight-unseen she committed to play Western Colorado. She spent just a few weeks there before realizing that she’d made a mistake and that the Rocky Mountains were not where that Cape Cod girl wanted to be. “I met the people, they were really nice and all, but it just wasn’t my fit,” she said.
Where her fit might have been best was a place that she almost ended up at way back when she was a high school senior. UMass Dartmouth had shown interest in her back then, and so she picked up the phone and made a phone call to coach Matt Ducharme at UMass Dartmouth to see if a spot might still be available there. Ducharme said there was and eventually found herself where her dad had wanted her to go all along.
“It’s so funny because my dad had kept telling me, back when I was being recruited, that I should go to UMass Darmouth, but I didn’t want to hear it,” she said with a laugh. “Turned out, he was right, but don’t tell him.”
Wilson and the Lady Corsairs will begin their season, if everything proceeds along its current path in the time of the pandemic, in early January. The team has not officially begun to practice yet, but will soon. She said that she cannot wait to get out on the court and play with her new teammates and find her place on a new team.
“I tried and tried did my best (at Merrimack), but it wasn’t working. I felt good (at UMass); it’s like a whole different world. Sometimes, change is good,” she said.
The pandemic sparked the beginning of Merrick’s decision. Back in March the Merrimack team was about to finish its season when everything was shut down. During quarantine, she said, that she began to evaluate where she was as a player and a student-athlete, and whether she wanted to continue along the path she was walking, or find a new one.
Her playing time was inconsistent during her sophomore season. She played 19 minutes in the season-opener against Eastern Nazarene, but then played just four the next time out against Holy Cross. That was followed by a 19-minute showing against Fisher, which then saw her play four minutes the next time out against UMass Lowell. From there, her time on the floor went down more and more. She averaged just 9.2 minutes and 2.5 points per game as a junior after playing a bit over six minutes per night as a freshman, with a 2.4 points per-game scoring average.
“I sat at home in March and found out that we weren’t going back and I just started thinking about it,” she said. “I loved Merrimack. I made friends that I’ll have forever, but the biggest thing was that I was losing my love for the sport and I’ve always loved it so much. It was becoming more of a source of stress than a stress reliever.”
Caroline said that something was missing, and she wanted it back.
“Before a game I always have this feeling in my chest before a game—that’s the greatest feeling. It’s like nothing else matters,” she explained. “When you’re sitting on the bench, and not playing, it’s sort of a bad feeling. You want to see your teammates win and I was always ready to get in and help, and was excited about the game, but the more I didn’t play, the harder it was to be excited. I missed that feeling and wanted to get it back.”
She said that at UMass Darmouth she believes that the love for the game is already being rekindled and that she cannot wait to get out on the court and start competing for a spot in the rotation with her new teammates, and then against other teams.
“It’s a whole new page. I just want to start (to build) chemistry with the new girls. I’m just excited, and curious, to see how it will all work out,” she said.
Just because she’s moving down to the D3 collegiate level from D1, Wilson said that she knows that her spot will have to be earned. She can’t wait to go out and work toward getting it.
“They’re not going to let me walk in and take a spot,” she said, sounding pleased about that fact. “With these girls, they’re not going to make it easy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”