Basketball teams to host regionals this weekend

Fans packed Carver Gymnasium to cheer on the Viking men against Central Washington University earlier this season. File photo by Dylan Koutsky | Communications and Marketing intern

WWU Athletics

For the first time in school history, both the men's and women's basketball teams at Western Washington University will play host to the West Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament this weekend.

The men are the host school for the fourth time in five seasons, while the women are regional hosts for the first time since 2006 and the second time ever.

The defending national champion and regional top seed men's basketball team faces No.8 seed Chaminade in an opening-round game Fri., March 15 (7:30 p.m.), at Sam Carver Gymnasium.

The women, who are making their 14th national tournament appearance in 15 years as a NCAA Division II member, are the No.1 seed in the region and host No.8 seed Academy of Art University in an opening-round contest Saturday, March 16 (7:30 p.m.) at Carver.

The Viking men, No.2 in the latest USA Today Sports/ESPN NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, are 27-2 overall. They won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season title with a 17-1 record, the best in conference history, before falling to Seattle Pacific, 72-70, in the GNAC tournament championship game Saturday.

"It's been quite a ride to get to this point," said WWU coach Tony Dominguez, the GNAC co-Coach of the Year. "We're extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our home crowd, and I hope we don't disappoint them."

If victorious in the opening round, the Vikings would face the winner of the No.4 Dixie State (22-6) versus No.5 Cal State San Bernardino (19-8), who meet Friday at 5 p.m., in a semifinal contest Monday at 7:30 p.m, with the championship game Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. The regional champion advances to the NCAA II Elite Eight at Louisville, Kentucky.

On the other side of the bracket, Friday's opening-round games feature No.3-seed Seattle Pacific (25-3) meeting No.6 Grand Canyon (23-7) at 12 noon, and No.2-seed Cal Poly Pomona (27-2) facing No.7 Chico State (19-10) at 2:30 p.m., with the semifinal Monday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for the regional tournament go on sale Monday at 11 a.m. and can be purchased by calling 360-650-2583. Reserved tickets, which go on sale Wednesday at 2 p.m., are $12. General admission is $8, and students, youth and seniors with ID are $5. Tickets are good all day for multiple-game dates.

All regional contests involving the WWU men and women can be heard live on KPUG Radio (1170 AM - www.kpug1170.com) with Doug Lange handling play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing (analyst) color commentary. A webcast and live stats are also available at www.wwuvikings.com.

This is WWU's sixth regional appearance, and the Vikings are hosting for the fifth time. They hosted a six-team regional in 2001, and after the NCAA II tournament expanded, hosted eight-team regionals in 2005, 2009 and 2012. They also played host to a sub-regional as the No.2 seed in the West in 2010. The only time that WWU competed in a regional that it did not host was in 2006.

WWU took the West Regional last year on its way to winning the NCAA Division II national championship. The Vikings also captured the regional title in 2001 and advanced to the national semifinals, and they reached the regional final in 2006.

The Viking women, ranked No.6 in this week's USA Today Sports/ESPN NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, enters the tournament with a 25-3 record and riding an eight-game winning streak, having claimed the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament championship with a 60-40 victory over Simon Fraser University on Saturday. The Vikings also won the GNAC regular-season title with a 17-1 mark.

"This is only the second time in school history we've been the No.1 seed," said WWU coach Carmen Dolfo, the GNAC Coach of the Year. "Our team has done a great job of staying focused and playing together. They've worked really hard for it. When you do those things, great things follow."

The winner of Saturday's opening-round contest will face the winner of the No.4 Chico State (23-5) versus No.5 Cal State Monterrey Bay (19-8) contest played at 5 p.m. Saturday, in a semifinal at 5 p.m. Monday. The championship game is Tuesday at 6 p.m.

On the other side of the bracket Saturday, No.3 UC San Diego (22-10) faces No.6 Grand Canyon (22-8) at 12 noon, and No.2 Simon Fraser (23-5) meets No.7 Northwest Nazarene (20-8) at 2:30 p.m. Those two winners meet in a semifinal Monday at 12 noon.

"We've played a lot of the teams in the region, but Academy of Art is one we haven't played," Dolfo said. "We don't know much about them, we'll starting watching video tonight; but we do know they're very hot right now, so it will be a great challenge."

Western previously hosted the West Regional in 2006, reaching the semifinals. The Vikings have reached the regional final twice - in 2000 and 2002 - winning the region in 2000 and eventually advancing to the national semifinals.

In 2012, the Vikings defeated Cal State Monterrey Bay, 65-58, before falling to UC San Diego in the semifinals, 81-66.

The 20-win season is the fourth straight for WWU, the 17th in Dolfo's 21 seasons as head coach, and the 31st in the 42-year history of the program.

For more information, visit http://www.wwuvikings.com.