BENNINGTON >> It's been a year of milestones for the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team this season.
The Mountaineers have achieved many goals this season, from the team winning its first New England Collegiate Conference championship in school history and earning a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 2003 to various players being honored for all-star accolades for their performances during the regular season.
"Seeing us achieve our team goal from day one in winning the NECC championship was the best feeling I have had as a coach since I have been here," said SVC coach Dan Engelstad. "I am proud of our players for what that they have been able to achieve this season and look forward to the team continuing to climbing the bar in the NCAA tournament."
A key ingredient to the Mountaineers' success this season that goes unnoticed from time to time has been the play of their bench.
"Our depth is a huge advantage for us going into games," Engelstad said. "When you can play nine to 10 guys that can make an impact in a game in different way, that's a huge advantage for a team and we're fortunate to have that."
The Mountaineers depth starts with junior guard Rayshawn Taylor.
Coming off the bench this season, Taylor is averaging 11 points a game for the Mountaineers and is the team's third leading scorer.
Besides scoring, Taylor has been a big help in defense coming off the bench as well, doing a good job of guarding on the perimeter and in the paint.
"I just try to do whatever I can on the court to help my team get the win," Taylor said. "It can be scoring points, playing great defense or just bringing more energy to the floor. I just try to help the team win as much as I can."
Right next to Taylor coming off the bench is fellow junior Nate Goldsmith, who like Taylor gives SVC great minutes on both offense and defense.
"I feel like I am a very important piece to the team even though I come off the bench," Goldsmith said. "My job this year to help the team win has been to come off the bench and bring the same level of play and intensity as the starters do and that's what I have been doing. I know am capable of helping the team win both offensively and defensively, so when my number is called to go in, I'm ready to help the team win."
Goldsmith is the team's fifth leading scorer and does a great job in the paint for SVC defensively, as the team's third leading rebounder this season.
Other players that have played key roles for SVC off the bench this season are guards Davante Jordan and Daemond Carter.
Carter has been a great perimeter shooter for SVC off the bench, shooting close to 40 percent from three-point land this season and filled in nicely as a starter in ten games for the Mountaineers, when starter Josh Borders was out will an injury.
Jordan, on the other hand, has brought great perimeter defense off the bench for the Mountaineers, being able wear down opponents' point guards with his athleticism and speed.
"We have some great players that come off the bench for us," Engelstad said. "All of them have helped win a game or more this season with their play off the bench and I am really proud of all of them for buying into the fact of doing what's best for the team and they have all shined by doing so on the court this season."
Just like during the regular season and in the NECC championship tournament, SVC depth Engelstad said will be a huge key for them this weekend in the NCAA tournament.
"We're going to need our bench to continue to play and help in key situations during the game," Engelstad said. "Our goal is to wear teams down and use our depth to our advantage. We know we have nine to ten guys that can play with anybody and if we use that to our advantage, I like our chances this weekend."
SVC travels to play Tufts in the first round of the NCCA Division III tournament on Friday at 7:30 p.m.