Western women off to La Jolla, Calif., as No.4 seed at NCAA II West Regional
The Western Washington University women's basketball team has reached the NCAA Division II Championship for the 13th time in 14 years as a member of that organization and faces No.5 seed Cal State Monterey Bay in an opening-round West Regional contest Friday (5 p.m.) at La Jolla, Calif.
All WWU games will be broadcast live on KBAI Radio (930 AM - www.930kbai.com) with Mitch McClellan providing play by play. They also can be viewed on the internet at http://wwu.nmtvsports.com and live stats are available at http://www.gnacsports.com/livestats.htm.
The Vikings enter the tournament as the No.4 seed with a 21-7 record. They were second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season standings at 14-4. As the No.2 seed at last week's second annual GNAC Tournament, WWU defeated Northwest Nazarene, 66-54, in a semifinal, then lost, 67-52, to nationally No.8-ranked and top-seeded Alaska Anchorage in a championship game that wasn't decided until the last five minutes.
The winner of Friday's regional contest will face either No.1 seed and host UC San Diego, ranked No.1 nationally, or No.8 seed Chico State in a semifinal Saturday (7:30 p.m.), with the winner advancing to Monday's regional championship game with a berth in the NCAA II Elite Eight at San Antonio, Tex., on the line.
On the other side of the bracket Friday, No.3 seed Grand Canyon faces No.6 Cal Poly Pomona, and No.2 Alaska Anchorage meets No.7 Cal State L.A.
"It was exciting to see that we got the fourth seed," said WWU coach Carmen Dolfo (21st year), whose Vikings are going to nationals for the fourth straight year. "It's a great indication of how hard our players have worked and improved as a team."
The Vikings, who are 8-2 in games decided by 10 or less points, are led by two all-GNAC picks - first-team senior forward Kristin Schramm (Chelan) and second-team junior point guard Corinn Waltrip (Tigard, OR).
Schramm is averaging 12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals; Waltrip is averaging 12.1 points and 3.8 assists. Both are three-point threats, with Schramm going 51-of-131 (38.9 percent) and Waltrip 48-of-127 (37.8 percent).
Two other starters are scoring just under double figures. Junior guard Trishi Williams (Mabton) is averaging 9.6 points on 54.3 percent (102-of-188) field-goal shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists; and junior center Britt Harris (Marysville/Marysville-Pilchuck) is providing 9.3 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 55.9 percent (104-of-186) from the floor.
Waltrip was the only returning starter from last season's 26-4 squad, but the young Vikings, who have three freshmen seeing extensive playing time, got better and better as the season progressed after being picked fourth in the pre-season GNAC coaches poll.
"Defensively is where we made our biggest strides," Dolfo said. "We had some success early on because of our offense, but our defensive improvement certainly contributed to our success toward the end of the year."
Cal State Monterey Bay enters 21-8 after winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament title. The Otters are making their second consecutive national appearance, having reached the regional semifinals last year.
"It's always an exciting challenge to play someone different," Dolfo said of CSUMB. "They're very well-coached and they play great defense."
The Otters are allowing 59.9 points a game, holding teams to 38.1 percent shooting from the field, including 26.6 percent from three-point range. Senior guard Brandi Stevens, a first-team CCAA all-star, is their leading scorer with a 10.3 average; and junior forward Brittani Jefferson, who was a second-team all-league pick and the CCAA tourney MVP, is averaging 9.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.
WWU's best tournament performance was in 2000, when the Vikings reached the national semifinals. They have made seven regional semifinal appearances, the most recent being in 2006.
WWU ranks 12th nationally among NCAA II schools in field-goal accuracy at 44.8 percent (746-of-1667), 13th in three-point shooting at 36.8 percent (194-of-527) and 17th in assists (16.6). The Vikings led the GNAC in three-point shooting and blocked shots (4.3), are second in field-goal shooting and field-goal percentage defense (37.0), and third in scoring offense (72.3), three-point makes (6.0),scoring margin (8.1), rebound margin (6.4) and assists.
The 20-win season is the third straight for WWU and its 16th in Carmen Dolfo's 21 seasons as head coach and the 30th in the 41-year history of the program.