FORT WAYNE – So now it’s official: The biggest, gaudiest target of all is fastened securely to the Saint Francis Cougars’ back.
The Cougar women, 33-0 and ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II, discovered their fate Wednesday night, and it was, to say the least, not unexpected. The Cougars will go to Sioux City, Iowa, as the No. 1 overall seed in the Division II national tournament, and will play Ashford, Iowa, in the first round at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The men, meanwhile, drew a No. 14 seed in their national tournament in Point Lookout, Mo., and will take on Robert Morris (Ill.) in the first round at 5 p.m. March 13. Huntington’s men and women also made the tournament; the women (23-8), a No. 5 seed, will play No. 4 Menlo (Calif.) (25-5) at 1 p.m. March 13, and the men (24-7), the 16 seed, take on Southeastern (Fla.) (24-6) at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
At Saint Francis, meanwhile, no one on either side of the ledger was exactly floored by the draw.
Yeah, Coach threw out about three or four different names of who we might be playing, and that was one of them, Cougars forward Scott Kohne said of the men’s matchup with Robert Morris.
We knew we’d be the No. 1 overall seed, so it would have to be a shock not to be, Saint Francis women’s coach Gary Andrews said.
Cougars’ guard Skylarr Shurn agreed.
That’s kind of what we played for all season, to get the No. 1 seed in the tournament, she said. That was one of our goals this year along with winning the conference.
As for their first opponent, Ashford is 12-20 and making its first appearance in the tournament, something Andrews draws no comfort from whatsoever.
I’d rather play somebody 12-20 than 25-6 or something like that, he said. But when you go out there, everything goes out the window. You’ve just got to worry about whoever you’re playing. Because you always have upsets.
By way of example, he pointed that he and men’s coach Chad LaCross were reviewing the men’s bracket last year and discovered 10 of 16 lower seeds won the first round. Something for Andrews to think about, but especially LaCross as his 21-10 Cougars, ranked 14th in the last NAIA poll, take on No. 19 Robert Morris (23-9).
They’re a team that’s really athletic, LaCross said of Robert Morris.
At least in the years past they’ve been a powerhouse. I think they spent the last several years in NAIA Division I. This is their first year in NAIA Division II.
It will be a tough matchup. We knew anybody we drew, being in the middle of the rankings, it was going to be tough.
And, as noted, nothing’s a given.
The first round, you get a day off, Kohne said. But then you’re playing every single day so you don’t have much time to prepare for anybody. So you just hopefully win and advance and just play your hardest, and anything can happen.