Women’s basketball (18-7) learned on Monday that it will continue its season in the NCAA tournament after receiving an at-large bid. Ranked No. 5 in the Northeast region, the Ephs will travel to Ithaca to play Mount St. Mary on Friday.
The women, who received one of 21 Pool C bids, will join Amherst, Tufts, Bowdoin and Colby in representing the NESCAC conference at Div. III NCAAs. This year marks the fifth appearance in NCAAs in the women’s history: The Ephs have a 5-4 record in previous years’ tournament play.
The Ephs earned their at-large bid even after a Feb. 20 loss to Bowdoin knocked them out of the NESCAC tournament in the quarterfinal round. Strong showings earlier in the year, however, held the team’s regional rankings high enough to qualify for NCAAs despite the loss.
Chessie Jackson ’11, who is the Ephs’ leading scorer with 14.4 points per game and finished the Bates game just seven points short of a 1000 point career benchmark, spoke about the team’s reaction upon hearing the news. “We’re all excited … we felt like we had unfinished business together on the season,” she said. “The way we ended against Bates two weekends ago was anticlimactic. We felt like it wasn’t time to be done yet.”
The women will head to Ithaca, N.Y., to face Mount St. Mary at 6 p.m. on Friday. Ithaca will also play host to DeSales University on Friday night. The winners of the respective contests will face off at 7 p.m. on Saturday for the second round of NCAA competition. Mount St. Mary is ranked No. 6 in the Atlantic conference, posting a 24-1 season record thus far.
“As far as Mount St. Mary’s record and statistics show, it seems like it’ll certainly be a challenge,” Jackson said when asked about the upcoming first round game.
The challenge of playing a regular season in the NESCAC conference has left the Ephs feeling confident moving into NCAAs. The stiff competition represented by Williams’ conference foes is adequate preparation, according to Jackson. “We’re lucky that we compete in the NESCAC, which is certainly the strongest conference in this area, so we’ve had a lot of practice playing against really great teams,” she said. “Our energy right now is really positive and excited. NCAAs will certainly be a challenge for us, but a challenge that we are more than ready to face.”