The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team joins the 64-team field at the NCAA Division II Tournament, with their first East Regional contest coming against LeMoyne College on Friday at 7:30 pm at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA.
How They Got Here - The Spartans enter their second straight NCAA Tournament and third in program history with a 26-4 record, identical to the record they carried into last year's East Regional. Despite suffering a tough semi-final loss to LIU Post in the East Coast Conference Tournament, their 17-1 conference mark and overall record were enough to earn an at-large bid as the #5 seed.
LeMoyne enters the tournament with a 24-5 record and a regular-season championship in the Northeast-10's Southwest Division. They hit their stride during the conference tournament, storming through their three victories by an average margin of over 15 per game, including a 22-point victory over Bentley in the final.
The Match-Up, First Meeting this Season – Not only did STAC and LeMoyne not meet this season, but this will be the first meeting between the programs since the Spartans captured a 56-54 victory at Henninger Athletic Center on December 30, 2012.
All in Balance – While many teams preach balance, few execute it as this year's Spartans have. Not one player is averaging more than 30 minutes per game, and STAC features five scorers averaging 9.0 ppg or more. No Spartans are in the ECC's top 10 in that category (Ruth Adams is 13th with a team-high 11.3 ppg), and only Emily Preston is among the leaders in rebounding (8th at 7.1 rpg).
All-Conference Kudos – In addition to Kim Lusk's Coach of the Year recognition, a pair of Spartans were recognized with All-ECC honors. Emily Preston – in her sophomore season, was tapped as a First Team All-Conference choice while Ruth Adams returned from missing all of last season due to injury to capture Second Team honors in her senior year.
All Hit, No Miss(y) – Melissa Sadler has been a study in perseverance. Despite having a hearing impairment since early childhood, she has improved immensely in her junior season, minimizing the foul trouble that plagued her early tenure and developing a strong offensive component as her talent has matched her consistent energy and intensity. On the subject of hits, she completed her second season with STAC's softball team last year, placing second on the squad with a .351 average, and she will return to the diamond after the completion of the women's basketball team's current run.
Solid Starters, Deep Bench – Coach Lusk prefers to utilize her deep bench, with seven different players appearing in all 30 Spartans' games to date. Chelsea Murphy and Emily Preston have started every game this season, with Kellyann Averill and Julia Winnik starting 29 each. Though the ECC Coach of the Year experimented with both Ruth Adams and Melissa Sadler as starters, they have been very effective coming off the bench as the combination with Zaria Thomas has started nine of the last 10 games, with the lone exception being Adams starting on Senior Day. Starting lineup combinations as follows:
Adams – Averill – Murphy – Preston – Winnik (9)
Averill – Murphy – Preston – Sadler – Winnik (9)
Averill – Murphy – Preston – Thomas – Winnik (9)
Adams – Murphy – Preston – Sadler – Winnik
Adams – Averill – Lynch – Murphy – Preston
Averill – Murphy – Preston – Sadler – Thomas
Friday, March 15 (East Region Quarterfinals)
Game 1 (12:00 p.m.): No. 3 (#10) Jefferson vs. No. 6 Stonehill
Game 2 (2:30 p.m.): No. 2 (#12) Bentley vs. No. 7 St. Anselm
Game 3 (5:00 p.m.): No. 1 (#6) USciences vs. No. 8 NYIT
Game 4 (7:30 p.m.): No. 4 (#RV) Le Moyne vs. No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas
Saturday, March 16 (East Region Semifinals)
Game 5 (5:00 p.m.): Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
Game 6 (7:30 p.m.): Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner
Monday, March 18 (East Region Final)
Game 7 (7:00 p.m.): Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner
2019 NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN'S BASKETBALL EAST REGION
No. 1 seed – University of the Sciences (30-4, 17-2 CACC)... CACC South Division Champions (at large bid)
No. 2 seed – Bentley University (28-3, 20-1 NE10)… NE10 Northeast Division Champions (at large bid)
No. 3 seed – Jefferson University (26-6, 16-3 CACC)… CACC Tournament Champions (automatic bid)
No. 4 seed – LeMoyne College (24-5, 15-5 NE10)… NE10 Tournament Champions (automatic bid)
No. 5 seed – St. Thomas Aquinas College (26-4, 17-1 ECC)… ECC Regular Season Champions (at large bid)
No. 6 seed – Stonehill College (19-9, 14-2 ECC)… NE10 Northeast Division Runners-up (at large bid)
No. 7 seed – St. Anselm College (19-9, 13-8 CACC)… NE10 Northeast Division 3rd Place (at large bid)
No. 8 seed – New York Institute of Technology (23-8, 12-6 ECC)… ECC Tournament Champions (automatic bid)