March 9, 2014
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Making its sixth straight appearance and 15th overall, the Western Washington University women's basketball team will be the No.6 seed and face No.3 seed Simon Fraser University for the fourth time this season in an opening-round game at the West Regional of NCAA Division II National Tournament on Friday (12 noon) at Pomona, Calif.
The defending champion Vikings received an automatic berth by virtue of their second straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament title. They defeated Simon Fraser, 78-74, in Saturday's final following an 81-71 semifinal victory over host Saint Martin's on Friday.
In its two regular-season meetings with Simon Fraser, WWU lost 62-58 at Burnaby, B.C., on Dec. 7, and was victorious, 72-63, at Bellingham on March 1.
The Vikings also played the Clan four times last season, WWU winning three.
"To say that we kind of know each other is an understatement," said WWU coach Carmen Dolfo (23rd year, 494-182). "We know them and know what to expect and we'll see what adjustments we need to make. We're just really excited to be in it and have this opportunity."
WWU enters the regional with a 19-9 record. The Vikings have won 16 of their last 20 games following a 3-5 start. They placed second in the GNAC regular-season standings at 13-5 to gain a first-round bye at the conference tourney.
With just two starters back from last year's 29-4 team that reached the national semifinals, WWU has gotten hot at the right time, winning eight of its last nine contests. The only loss during that stretch was by four points at Alaska Anchorage.
"It's been pretty incredible and so much fun to see this team develop," Dolfo said. "There were many times during the season where we could have backed off and stopped fighting, but this group didn't. The (GNAC championship) game Saturday was indicative of our whole season. It started out bad and we just didn't say die."
The winner of Friday's WWU vs. Simon Fraser contest faces the winner of the No.2 Montana State Billings (23-7) vs. No.7 Academy of Art (23-7) game played at 2:30p.m. Friday, in a semifinal Saturday at 5 p.m. The championship game is Monday at 7 p.m.
On the other side of the bracket Friday, No.1 Cal Poly Pomona (22-6) faces No.8 Alaska Anchorage (19-8) at 7:30 p.m., and No.4 Cal State Dominguez Hills (20-9) meets No.5 Chico State (18-9) at 5 p.m.. Those two winners play in a semifinal Saturday at 7:30 p.m..
Colard was a first-team GNAC all-star and Hill received second-team honors. White earned honorable mention and was named the GNAC Tournament MVP.
Colard leads WWU at 14.5 points per game, ranking 14th nationally and leading the conference in 3-point shooting at 40.0 percent (78-of-195). She has scored double figures in a team-best 21 games and has made a trey in her last 33 contests.
White is averaging 10.6 points and leads the team in both assists at 4.7 and steals at 2.2. She tied her career high with nine assists in the conference tourney semifinal win over Saint Martin's.
Colard scored 44 points in the two GNAC tourney wins and White had 32, hitting 13-of-21 field goals (61.9 percent).
"I was just so excited for Jenni (White)," said Dolfo. "To see that determination come out of her and to realize that she can take over a game was really neat. And Katie (Colard) totally stepped up."
Hill is averaging 10.1 points and a team-leading 8.9 rebounds and 51 blocked shots. She has had six double-doubles this season in points and rebounds and had near misses in five other games.
Completing the Vikings' starting lineup are forward Sydney Donaldson (Jr., Edmonds/Edmonds-Woodway), who is averaging 9.3 points and 6.5 rebounds, and forward Marcel Pounds (Jr., Bonney Lake), who has been playing stalwart defense and has hit 8-of-10 shots from the floor over the last five games.
WWU has gotten outstanding performances off the bench from two freshmen. Guard Taylor Peacocke (Kenmore/Inglemoor) is averaging 11.0 points, having her first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday's win over Simon Fraser. Forward Tia Briggs (Tacoma/Wilson) is averaging 9.6 points on team-best 52.9 percent (110-of-208) field-goal accuracy.
"This team ranks very high on my list for what it has accomplished," Dolfo said. "Just to know how far we've come, having only nine players all year and how they've hung in there and never quit."
Simon Fraser, 19-9, has split its last six games, two of the losses being to WWU. The Clan is led by junior forward Erin Chambers, one of the top 10 scorers in the nation at 22.6.
Simon Fraser ranks eighth nationally in 3-point percentage defense at 25.4.
WWU holds a 43-33 series advantage over the Clan, winning 10 of the last 12 meetings.
A win over Simon Fraser would give the Vikings a fifth straight 20-win season at regionals. It would be the 18th in Dolfo's 23 seasons as head coach, and the 32nd in the 43-year history of the program.
2014 NCAA DIVISION II WEST REGIONAL - host Cal Poly Pomona - Pomona, Calif.
March 14 (Fri.)
Game #1 - No.3 seed Simon Fraser (19-9) vs. No.6 seed Western Washington (19-9) - 12 noon
Game #2 - No.2 seed Montana State Billings (23-7) vs. No.7 seed Academy of Art (23-7) - 2:30 p.m.
Game #3 - No.4 seed Cal State Dominguez Hills (20-9) vs. No.5 seed Chico State (18-9) - 5 p.m.
Game #4 - No.1 Cal Poly Pomona (22-6) vs. No.8 seed Alaska Anchorage (19-8) - 7:30 p.m.
March 15 (Sat.)
Game #5 - Winner Game #1 vs. Winner Game #2 - 5 p.m. Game #6 - Winner Game #3 vs. Winner Game #4 - 7:30 p.m.
March 17 (Mon.)
Game #7 - Winner Game #5 vs. Winner Game #6 - 7 p.m.
WWU West Regional appearances
1999 West Regional at Davis, Calif. (host UC Davis) Defeated Seattle Pacific, 77-69 OT, in first round Lost to Montana State Billings, 70-48, in semifinals
2000 West Regional at Pomona, Calif. (host Cal Poly Pomona) Defeated Alaska Anchorage, 78-59, in semifinals Defeated Cal Poly Pomona, 84-66, in final Elite Eight at Pine Bluff, Ark. (host Arkansas-Pine Bluff) Defeated Slippery Rock PA, 84-67, in quarterfinals Lost to Northern Kentucky, 80-74, in semifinals
2001 West Regional at Pomona, Calif. (host Cal Poly Pomona) Lost to Cal Poly Pomona, 91-85, in semifinals
2002 West Regional at Pomona, Calif. (host Cal Poly Pomona) Defeated Sonoma State, 71-60, in semifinals Lost to Cal Poly Pomona, 71-70, in final
2003 West Regional at Seattle, Wash. (host Seattle Pacific) Lost to Northwest Nazarene, 83-79, in first round
2004 West Regional at Seattle, Wash. (host Seattle Pacific) Defeated Sonoma State, 85-71, in first round Lost to Seattle Pacific, 80-66, in semifinals
2005 West Regional at Seattle, Wash. (host Seattle Pacific) Defeated Cal State Dominguez Hills, 82-74, in first round Lost to Chico State, 85-75, in semifinals
2006 West Regional at Bellingham, Wash. (host WWU) Defeated Northwest Nazarene, 66-54, in first round Lost to Seattle Pacific, 70-50, in semifinals
2007 West Regional at San Diego, Calif. (host UC San Diego) Lost to UC San Diego, 78-45, in first round
2008 - Did not receive berth
2009 West Regional at Seattle, Wash. (host Seattle Pacific) Lost to Humboldt State, 74-64, in first round
2010 West Regional at Seattle, Wash. (host Seattle Pacific) Lost to Chico State, 79-68, in first round
2011 West Regional at Pomona, Calif. (host Cal Poly Pomona) Lost to Alaska Anchorage, 55-48, in first round
2012 West Regional at San Diego, Calif. (host UC San Diego) Defeated Cal State Monterey Bay, 65-58, in first round Lost to UC San Diego, 81-66, in semifinal
2013 West Regional at Bellingham, Wash. (host WWU) Defeated Academy of Art, 70-50, in first round Defeated Cal State Monterey Bay, 71-63, in semifinal Defeated Simon Fraser, 75-58, in final Elite Eight at San Antonio, Texas (host Saint Mary's) Defeated Nova Southeastern FL, 80-76 OT, in quarterfinals Lost to Ashland OH, 66-54, in semifinals
2014 West Regional at Pomona, Calif. (host Cal Poly Pomona)
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WWU recorded 34th 20-win season in the 46-year history of the program
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Tia Briggs scores career-high 29 points, Taylor Peacocke scores 25 points in loss to Lancers