MC women earn 19th NCAA tourney bid, ready to dance to Holland, Mich
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
The Maryville College women’s basketball team had to wait for 34 other teams to be announced but when the 18th first-round pairing of the 2013 NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament appeared on the projection screen, the Orange Room of the Cooper Center erupted in cheers.
What tidbits bracket show host Jocelyn Bovins shared about MC was lost amongst the shouts and high fives, but the only news the assembled players and coaches wanted had arrived, Maryville was going to the dance.
The Scots (23-4) will travel to Greencastle, Ind. to the campus of DePauw University for this weekend first-round meeting against Otterbein.
The winner advances to play the winner between La Roche and undefeated pod-host — and general consensus No. 1 seed in the unseeded D3 bracket — DePauw.
“The wait is over and the anxiety of the wait is over but the anxiety of getting ready is just starting, at least that’s a good anxiety,” MC coach Darrin Travillian told The Daily Times. “The (nerves) were a little shaky early but when I started thinking geography of the brackets we’d seen, we hadn’t seen Emory, we hadn’t seen Ferrum, we hadn’t seen CNU, I felt like we could wait a little longer before I got real nervous. Last year we knew we were in and had to wait until the final bracket to find out where we were going.”
Where they want to go is Hope College in Holland, Mich. — the site of this year’s Final Four. It was waiting to find out if they’d be give a chance that was hard.
The Scots had one of the longest runs in the Top 25 rankings in the program’s history this season, didn’t drop a game to any team not also projected to get a dance card, but still had to endure a wait. It had some players restlessly perched on the edge of their seats, others trying to keep the laidback look to avoid any disappointment and a few nervous jokes tossed out to try and break the tension. For as good as Maryville’s resume was, it was also likely to be the third woman out if the selection committee didn’t want to invite a trio of teams from the USA South Athletic Conference and only gave two new hopes for Hope.
“I’ve been trying to stay on even keel about it and hope we had a chance, I felt like we deserved it, but to see the fruition of that is pretty cool,” said Travillian, who sported black running socks under his dress shoes after a possible morning case of nerves. “The scramble begins. We’ll start seeing what we could come up with and start doing research. It’s a great problem to have and we’ll start piecing it together in the next couple of days and get ready to go.”
The road to Hope starts Friday night against Otterbein (21-6), which is making its first NCAA tournament appearance. The Cardinals finished second in the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) regular-season standings, eventually falling in the league’s tournament championship to No. 3 Ohio Northern University. The Scots, who tied for the USAC regular season title, lost a close semifinal to CNU, which won its championship match with Ferrum Sunday.
“After the loss Saturday, games like that are the hardest of all because the postgame speech you don’t want to say good bye, literally don’t want to, but that speech is so difficult in this case because you just don’t know,” Travillian said. “In some ways the seniors had a lot of emotion then and got it out of their system Saturday and were just waiting and hoping today. The freshmen are just kind of anxious and have that ‘what’s it going to be like?’ kind of wonder. I think overall our mood was just hopeful more than anything.”
It’s a much kinder pairing on paper than last season when MC returned to the tournament after a one-year hiatus only to be the first of Illinois Wesleyan’s five-consecutive victims on its way to the national title. Sitting in a pod with No. 1 seed hosting, the math would say MC was rated as a 7-9 seed but the geographical travel implications for Division III pods often muddy the analysis.
“The teams that have beaten us in the NCAA Tournament have either won the whole thing or at least gone to the Final Four, so Otterbein might be feeling pretty good about the matchup right now,” Travillian joked before turning reflective. “For me, the hope was about wanting to coach them again. This team, this group, I wanted to coach some more. It’ll be a great challenge, a great opportunity to go and chase a dream. You put all that work into the regular season to get here and this is really the icing on the cake.”
The post-season invitation is the 19th for the Scots women’s basketball program, a school record for any sport. Maryville’s athletic department has now sent 63 teams to the NCAA National Tournament since joining the NCAA Division III in 1974.