Softball senior Grafton steps away from field and onto the court

By Chris Mueller, Assistant Sports Editor

The RMU women’s basketball team has suffered a series of unfortunate events over the course of the 2012-13 season. Thus far, the team has amounted an unexpected and dismal 4-15 record after suffering serious injuries to a few key players and with their roster uncommonly short to begin with [10 players], that was the last thing the Colonials could afford.

Only dressing eight players on a game-by-game basis would serve more harm than help to the team as fatigue would slowly become an issue the farther the season went on. But due to NCAA in-season regulations, the program’s only option to improve their roster was to look within the university.

“We had some major injuries early on in the year when Jasmine [Tate] and Jolie [Olingende] went down, so we just didn’t have a lot of numbers,” said assistant coach Charlie Buscaglia. “It’s not like the pros where you can sign 10-day contracts, so you need to work with what you can have.”

That’s when the name Britta Grafton came up in conversation. Grafton, a senior business education major, has been a key contributor to the RMU softball team over the last three years and has lettered every season in her career. Being a utility player, she has played every position for the Colonial’s besides pitcher and catcher, but not known for her basketball ability, Grafton was introduced to the basketball staff by softball coach and athletic director Craig Coleman.

“Our athletic director, Craig Coleman, turned us on to Britta and said she was a great, hard-working kid,” said Buscaglia.  “She’s a positive attitude that does everything we ask of her. She’s struggled at some levels due to being thrown into a Division I basketball program, but with her attitude she’s ready to go whenever we need to her to play.”

After an open practice, Grafton officially joined the team during finals week of the first semester, a full month after the Colonials’ season began.

“I was rusty at first,” laughed Grafton. “The physicality and speed of the game has been a challenge since I haven’t played in so long.”

A little rust should be expected. Grafton’s last year of competitive basketball was in high school, where she earned four varsity letters at Jamestown High [PA] and was named her region’s player of the year as a senior.

Even with the lack of playing experience or preparation, Grafton has positively impacted the team in practice on a daily basis, with both her teammates and coaches noticing.

“Britta’s been with us for six weeks and has helped a lot in practice,” said junior forward and leading scorer Artemis Spanou.  “We are short on players and she’s done a great job so far. You never know, she may need to come in for a few minutes and help us. I’m sure she’s ready for that.”

Mainly used as a practice player, Grafton could potentially see a little bit of playing time with the recent developments of a knee injury to freshman guard Lou Mataly. The extent of Mataly’s injury was not known, but she has had to sit out of practice the last couple days and it is possible she could miss a few games.

“Lou [Mataly] twisted her knee pretty bad and she’s been hampered,” said Buscaglia. “It’s day-to-day right now. But especially if she can’t go, we’re obviously going to have to open the bench up and give Britta some minutes.”

Grafton has enjoyed the experience to this point, and agreed that it’s only going to help her preparations for softball.

“I definitely think it will help,” said Grafton. “The practices are completely different than softball, and I’m in a lot better shape.  Just doing something consistently can help transfer over.”

In addition to playing two sports, Grafton is a participating member of RMU’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Along with her involvement in SAAC, she was also recently recognized as an All-America Scholar Athlete by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for her work in the classroom.

Grafton portrays the ideal image that a student-athlete should have; consistently showing great dedication and loyalty both to her teams and university.  The senior will undoubtedly continue her strong play and devotion for one last semester as her distinguished RMU career comes to an end.