Fruita graduate Snyder leaves legacy with Air Force basketball | Sports
Riley Snyder wasn’t just a good player with a good attitude for the Air Force Academy women’s basketball team.
She helped turn one of Division I basketball’s least successful programs into a winner with her work ethic, relentless positivity off the court, and vast offensive repertoire.
The Fruita Monument High School graduate chose the Falcons over programs like Wyoming and Dartmouth because she wanted to establish a winning culture.
When she graduates in May, she will do so as the Falcons’ leading scorer since they moved to DI in 1998, fourth on the all-time scorers list and will be remembered as an integral part of the Falcons’ most successful season as a team. the story.
Snyder finished his career with 1,614 points, 13.8 per game. She scored a career-high 34 points in a win over New Mexico in her sophomore season. She scored 20+ points 24 times with the Falcons.
“This experience has given me so much resilience,” Snyder said. “(I learned that) times are going to get tough, things won’t always go your way. What you can control is your effort and attitude to the situation, and those are life lessons. .
Snyder built that resilience because things didn’t go as planned when she first arrived in Colorado Springs.
When Snyder and his fellow freshmen first stepped onto the field for open gyms, the Falcons had gone 18-161 in the previous six seasons. And in that first season, the Falcons went just 8-22 and 4-14 against opponents in the Mountain West Conference.
“When I joined here, I didn’t really understand how bad the program was. But I saw the talent that was here and realized that we could do something here. I also wanted to go to a place where I would have an impact instead of sitting on the bench and being replaced by a higher rookie every year,” Snyder said. “I knew I wanted to invest in a program that didn’t have a lot of hype.”
Snyder was sure she and her teammates had the physical and intangible skills to do it, and that’s why coach Chris Gobrecht signed her on.
Snyder caught Gobrecht’s attention during a club basketball game on the Front Range. Gobrecht, who was behind the NCAA tournaments hosted by the University of Washington in the 1980s and 1990s, was blown away by Snyder’s scoring ability and size.
“I think his game has evolved tremendously. Then she developed a good step, then a pull-up game and she just kept growing,” Gobrecht said. “But the most important thing is that she learned to play defense. In her last year, she was a complete player.
The Air Force went 26-61 in Snyder’s first three seasons, but there was no doubt in Snyder’s mind that she was in the right place.
“The hardest part is that we knew we had the ability to win. We would beat teams ranked (first and second) in our conference. We knew we could do it, we just couldn’t put it together,” Snyder said. “I think we’ve had a culture change this season. We said it was no longer acceptable to lose.
The Air Force opened the 2021-22 season with a 79-62 win over Denver. Down 40-30 at halftime, the Falcons outscored the Pioneers 29-7 in the third quarter and held on for the win. Snyder was 8 for 9 from the free throw line, scored 18 points and pulled out seven rebounds.
Suddenly, the Falcons spread their wings to take flight.
They went 11-7 in conference play, including a win over defending conference champion Wyoming and a win over Mountain West stalwart Boise State. In those games, Snyder dropped a combined 49 points, leading the team to score each time, and hitting 80% of his shots.
“I knew early on that this team was different when I saw the talent we had in the open gyms and the responsibility we had. Everyone was bought off and that wasn’t the case years before. “There was also some urgency because it was our senior year. Because we’re in a service academy, we don’t have an extra COVID year.”
As the No. 5 seed in the Mountain West tournament, the Air Force beat fourth-seeded Nevada before falling to eventual conference champion UNLV. But the Falcons still earned an invitation to the Women’s NIT, their first Division I tournament selection and the first of any kind in 32 years. The Air Force took on the University of San Francisco in the first round of the WNIT.
Down three early in the final quarter, the Falcons outscored the Dons 19-12 and forced eight turnovers to secure a 64-60 victory.
Snyder was cold off the floor, making just 4 of 15 and was 1 of 6 from the 3-point line. But she was perfect from the free throw line, scored 15 points and had six rebounds. Four Falcons scored 10+ points in the game.
“Here we are in this environment that we have never been in, neither of us has played in a post-season tournament. Coming out with that win was such a cool opportunity. And no one expected us to win,” Snyder said. “We just looked at each other like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy. We’re actually doing it. I looked at the clock with seconds left. We were ahead by five and they were shooting a free throw and I I was like, ‘This is crazy, we’re literally about to make history on this program.’ We’re doing something that’s never been done.”
Air Force Cinderella’s season ended in the second round of the tournament with a 61-45 loss to UCLA.
But the loss didn’t change what Snyder and the senior class achieved — the first tournament appearance for the Air Force since its move to DI and the first major tournament win in program history.
“This senior class accomplished what we came here to do,” Snyder said. “It’s rewarding and fulfilling to go out on this note.”
Gobrecht called it the greatest season in program history and praised the leadership of Snyder and the senior class for helping bring it about.
“It will be difficult to replace his brand, his energy and his enthusiasm. She was an important part of the formula,” Gobrecht said. “This whole senior class was really special. I think Riley and Ciara Winters had a huge impact on the development of this program. As they got better, we get better.
Snyder has been a basketball player for as long as she can remember. But she’s more than that and she knows there’s more to life than gambling.
That’s why she chose Colorado Springs over Laramie, Wyoming and Hanover, New Hampshire in the first place.
“When I visited the Academy, I realized basketball was going to be over at some point in my life, and I’m here at this point now,” she said. “I knew my education and preparation for a great career and life was important, and this place does that. It is unlike any other institution. I mean, I just came out of a brief with Elon Musk. Not many schools have these opportunities.
And ask anyone about him, and they’ll probably tell you that Snyder gives off good vibes.
“She’s an incredibly positive person. I don’t remember hearing a single negative thing come out of Riley Snyder’s mouth,” Gobrecht said. “She has a beautiful spirit that makes people want to play with her. She’s emotional and competitive but she’s not a brooder. She is confident but not arrogant. You just want to be near her.
Snyder will earn a degree in behavioral science. Afterwards, she will be stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, where she will serve as a Force Support Officer. This role is a bit of a catch-all, but, essentially, Snyder said she’ll take care of the people on base and make sure things run smoothly.
The sky is the limit for the Air Force cadet, but she will always be grateful for her humble beginnings.
“I just want to say thank you to my high school and the community for their support of women’s sports and to my friends and I. Coming out for every game meant the world to us,” she said. “And to middle and high school kids who want to play college, keep those dreams big because you absolutely can achieve them.”