Women’s basketball grabs one of four No. 1 seeds, draws matchup with Bryan College
SEWARD, Neb. – Experienced on the national stage, head coach Drew Olson’s program will make its 14th all-time appearance – fourth in a row – at the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championships. On Wednesday evening the third-ranked Bulldogs learned they had earned one of four No. 1 seeds and will take on eighth-seeded Bryan College (Tenn.) (21-8) at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 12 in the first round of the bracket.
The entire tournament includes 31 games staged at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, from March 11-17. The grand spectacle commences on Tuesday, March 17 with the national championship game at 7:05 p.m. CST.
Olson says the team’s approach leading up to the national tournament won’t differ from the way it has attacked the entire season. Plus, first-round exits the past two seasons guarantee Concordia won’t be looking past anyone.
“I like the way we have kept the same approach and mindset throughout the season,” Olson said. “We’re confident but we don’t take anyone lightly. Our last loss (77-76 at No.1 Morningside on Feb. 21) made us review the details. We’re not having the careless turnovers and we’re focused on defense. That’s who we’ve been all year.”
Olson and his staff will now spend some time familiarizing themselves with Bryan College, runner up in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. Head coach Jason Smith’s squad, located in Dayton, Tenn., features post Megan Billingsby, who averages team highs in scoring (15.2 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg). The Lions rank sixth among all NAIA Division II teams in scoring defense (56.1).
The Bulldogs ride back into Sioux City on a high after capturing their second GPAC title in four seasons. Concordia went on the road for the conference championship and knocked top-ranked Morningside from the ranks of the unbeaten while ending the Mustangs’ program-record string of 39-consecutive home wins.
Despite the Bulldogs’ win at Morningside, the top-four teams in the national coaches’ poll remained in their positions. Concordia has held down the No. 3 spot for 11-straight polls and owns an active streak of 51-consecutive top 25 rankings.
Olson’s bunch will follow the lead of senior point guard Bailey Morris, who was named the GPAC player of the year for the second-straight season on Wednesday. Morris and fellow seniors Kelsey Hizer and Tracy Peitz have all played in each of the last three national tournaments. The Bulldogs possess plenty of experience on the Tyson Events Center court.
“It helps a little bit,” Olson said of the experience. “I think what helps most is that we have a chip on our shoulder from what happened last season. They don’t want the same thing where they come out flat. They have that mentality that they’re not going to let it happen again.”
Concordia’s deepest national tournament advancement under Olson came in 2012 when the Bulldogs won three games to reach the semifinals. That’s when College of the Ozarks (Mo.) clipped Concordia, 74-70. Three Bulldog teams have advanced to the national semifinals, but none have ever earned a spot in the title game.
NAIA Network (www.NAIANetwork.com), powered by Stretch Internet – the NAIA’s official video-streaming platform – will be home to all of the national championship action. Don't miss the live HD-quality video stream of the first 28 games running from March 11 - 17. For more information, click here. Both semifinal games and the championship final will be broadcast in high definition on ESPN3.com.
- In its first 13 appearances at the national championships, Concordia has posted a record of 18-13 with three trips to the national semifinals and four quarterfinal finishes. The Bulldogs are 8-5 overall in first-round games, including a 7-3 mark in the last 10 first-round contests. All of the program’s 14 national qualifying seasons have come since 1992 – the same year the NAIA split into two divisions for both men’s and women’s basketball.
- Concordia carries a record of 8-2 this season against teams that have qualified for the national tournament. The eight wins have come against Briar Cliff (two), Hastings (three), Jamestown (one), Morningside (one) and Saint Xavier (one). Both setbacks came at the hands of Morningside.
- Nine of the 15 players on the Bulldogs’ official national tournament roster have prior experience at the national tournament. These nine individuals have combined for 30 career games over appearances in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Three of Concordia’s seniors have each played in six national tournament games: Kelsey Hizer, Bailey Morris and Tracy Peitz. Jericca Pearson, who missed last season’s national tournament due to an ACL tear, has appeared in five career national tournament contests.
- Morris has tallied 61 points over her six career national tournament games with her career best at the Tyson Events Center being 17 points in the first-round loss to Cardinal Stritch in 2013. Among current Bulldogs, Peitz’s 23 points in last season’s national tournament defeat versus Olivet Nazarene stand out as a team high on the national stage. National tournament scoring averages for Concordia’s experienced seniors: Morris (10.2), Peitz (6.0), Pearson (4.6) and Hizer (3.7).
- In the program’s first 31 games at the national tournament, the Bulldogs have averaged 70.8 points per game while allowing an average of 65.2 points. The school record for most points in a single tournament game came in 2003 when Concordia defeated William Jewell (Mo.) 88-44 in the second round. The Bulldogs’ stingiest defensive effort occurred in 2005 when they held Western Baptist to just 28 points in a 70-28 first-round victory.
- Head coach Drew Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past seven national tournament appearances (including 2015). Olson also helped the Bulldog men to two national tournaments as a player and was part of three such trips to the grand stage as an assistant men’s coach at Bellevue University (Neb.). Former eleven-year assistant coach Amy Harms served on Olson’s staff for each of the first six national tournament appearances between 2008 and 2014 and played in national tournaments in 2002 and 2003 as a member of the Bulldogs. The 2003 squad owns the school record with 36 wins and advanced to the national semifinals. Current assistant Debi Smith is headed to the national tournament for the second year in a row.
- Olson became the fifth coach in program history to lead the Bulldogs to the national tournament when he made his first appearance as head coach in 2008. Now with seven national tournament appearances, Olson has four more than Todd Voss for the most among head coaches in school history. Here are the all-time records for Bulldog coaches at the national tournament:
- Todd Voss: 8-3 (three appearances; two Fab Fours; one quarterfinal finish)
- Drew Olson: 7-6 (seven appearances; one Fab Four; two quarterfinal finishes)
- Mark Lemke: 2-2 (two appearances; one quarterfinal finish)
- Micah Parker: 1-1 (one appearance)
- Carl Everts: 0-1 (one appearance)
- Concordia has made a living in the top 10 of the national rankings. With its No. 8 positioning in Wednesday’s new poll, the Bulldogs have now appeared in the top 10 in 49 of the last 50 polls. Concordia held down the top spot on four occasions during the 2012-13 season. The current senior class has played for a ranked Bulldog team every single game over the past four seasons. The senior class owns a four-year record of 114-20.
- Great Plains Athletic Conference members have won 11 of the last 14 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championships. Northwestern has five national titles during that stretch while Hastings and Morningside each have three. The GPAC had advanced at least two teams into the Fab Four six-straight years until the streak was snapped last season. Two or more GPAC teams have reached the semifinals in 12 of the past 14 years. In 2012, Concordia, Briar Cliff and Northwestern all appeared in the semifinals.