Pittsfield's Jill Ritrosky is staring at the end of her college basketball career.
"It really is" hard to believe that her college basketball career is coming to an end, she said. "I've been playing basketball all of my life. I live with one of my teammates and she was like 'Jill, only a few more weeks. Only a month left.' She's always reminding me that I don't have a lot of time."
But Ritrosky's career isn't over yet. The Eastern Connecticut standout and her teammates begin play in the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday.
The Warriors bring a 22-6 record into the NCAAs, but have quite the first-round challenge ahead of them. Eastern Connecticut will play fourth-ranked Amherst in an opening-round game at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. Amherst is the No. 2 team in the New England region while Eastern Connecticut is the No. 6 team in the region.
"Seasons feel long, but then you look back and you say 'Wow, that sure went by so fast,' " she said in a phone interview. "It's really hard to believe that it's almost over officially."
Officially, it will be hard to find someone who had a much better career than the Pittsfield High School graduate.
Ritrosky is only the second woman in Eastern Connecticut history to register more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for her career. She is third all-time with 1,098 rebounds and fourth with 1,400 points. Ritrosky has 15 career double-doubles.
This year, she led the Little East Conference with 7.5 defensive rebounds per game, was second with 10.5 rebounds and fifth in scoring at 15.1 points per game.
In last weekend's conference championship game, Ritrosky earned tourney MVP honors by scoring 20 points in a 64-56 win over UMass-Boston in the title game. She had 17 points and 14 rebounds in a semifinal victory over UMass-Dartmouth.
What might be the most impressive statistic is that out of a possible 112 games played during her tenure, Ritrosky started 109 of them.
"When you have a kid that's played since she got here, has played a lot of minutes and done a lot of great things, you just kind of think it's going to go on forever," said Eastern Connecticut coach Denise Bierly. "It just went by in the blink of an eye.
"It's been a great four years with her. She's a remarkable young woman."
The Warriors face quite a challenge Friday against NESCAC champion Amherst. Amherst gives up only 40.6 points per game and is considered to have one of the best defenses in Division III.
Last year, both teams got to the Sweet 16. This year, one will be going home very early.
Ask Ritrosky what the biggest change in her basketball is, and the senior doesn't hesitate to answer — much like catching and shooting.
"I've changed the most in my ability to score," she said. "I opened up my game a lot. In my freshman year, I would drive or take layups. Now I'm much more versatile. I can shoot from the outside.
"I can drive and I've added some post moves, some back-to-the-basket moves. I think that's an area where I really improved on."
Ritrosky has been a captain at Eastern Connecticut for two seasons. Looking at the box scores and the stat sheets, it is pretty obvious that she leads by example on the court. She is also a leader in the classroom, named a CoSIDA Academic All-America this week.
But as a captain, she said she has grown into the role.
"This year, I've been more vocal. After we lost our seniors from last year, they were really the vocal ones. I think I've definitely come more into a vocal leader," she said. "I'm a little bit of both I guess."
She'll get to lead her team against Amherst on Friday.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.