FORT WAYNE – Less than a week after his Saint Francis womens basketball team was eliminated from the NAIA Division II tournament, coach Gary Andrews is trying not to let the season be more bitter than sweet.
As a No. 1 seed and owning the No. 2 national ranking, the Cougars were bounced out 87-77 by Northwestern College, which is near Sioux City, Iowa, where the tournament was held. Four Saint Francis players fouled out, and Northwestern shot twice as many free throws (46-23) as Saint Francis.
But it was the way the tournament ended – with co-Crossroads League champion Indiana Wesleyan winning the title – that had Andrews admit, Its a little bittersweet.
Even though Saint Francis tied Wesleyan for the league title, the Cougars had beaten Wesleyan twice in three games this season.
I think we exceeded preseason expectations, Andrews said of his team that finished 32-4. We were picked fourth in the conference. I thought we could be really good. We won the conference and got to the Elite 8. It was a pretty good year.
Next year could be a pretty good year, as well.
Leading scorer Kayla Drake (15.8 points per game) and Meghan Slusher (10 ppg) are the only graduating seniors, which means three starters and an experienced bench return.
Well move Brooke (freshman Ridley) to power forward, Andrews said. Well be bigger and stronger. Its a more physical game there.
We wont be as quick. We probably wont play four guards. But I think well be a little taller and more versatile.
Athletes of note
Trine senior Ian Jackson was named to the D3Hoops.com All-Great Lakes Region first team. Jackson led the MIAA in scoring with a 21.0 average. Trine freshman Kaitlyn Clark was named the NCAA Division III national softball player of the week. By going 12 of 23 at the plate, Clark was the MVP of the Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. Saint Francis mens basketball players Kevin Bloom (East Noble), Zachary Welklin (Bishop Dwenger) and Ethan Hussey were awarded NAIA Division II mens basketball scholar-athlete status. Players must achieve at least a 3.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Indiana Tech junior Kendall Guthrie was named the national Womens Lacrosse League player of the week. Guthrie scored four goals in the Warriors 14-13 WHAC win over Davenport. Guthrie and basketball teammate Bryn Schlatter were also named scholar-athletes by the NAIA. Bethel senior Jordan
Bowerman (Leo) was named the NCCAA North Central region player of the year. Bowerman led Bethel (25-10) by averaging 14.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. Saint Francis senior Tyler Gregory was named the Crossroads League baseball player of the week. Gregory had two three-run home runs and eight RBI in two wins. Urbana sophomore Ciara Geiger (Carroll) was named the Great Midwest Athletic Conference womens basketball player of the year. Geiger led the league in scoring (18.4 ppg) and was player of the week five times in 15 weeks.