Lady Royals maul Moravian
Last season, after falling in the Landmark Conference championship game, The University’s women’s basketball team was forced to wait and see if they had earned an at large bid into the NCAA Division III national tournament.
Now, after defeating Moravian College 74-61 to win the Landmark Conference Championship on Saturday, the Royals (24-3) will host the first round of this year’s national tournament in the John Long Center.
Championship game Most Valuable Player Meredith Mesaris led the way for the Lady Royals with 26 points on 8 of 16 shooting, while grabbing seven rebounds in the process.
It was a slow start for the Lady Royals as they fell behind the Greyhounds early. Down 13-5 and with 14:34 left in the first half, head coach Mike Strong made one of his unit switches, bringing in five girls off the bench. Within two minutes, the Royals made an 11-0 run to take a 14-13 lead, and they never looked back.
After jumping out to a 34-25 halftime lead, the Lady Royals increased the led to 41-25 before the Greyhounds scored in the second half. The ability to convert at the foul line and controlling the glass propelled the Lady Royals to their first conference championship in five years.
The Lady Royals out-rebounded the Greyhounds 52-33 in the game and finished 27-39 at the foul line, hitting 9-12 to close out the game.
A major part of this team’s success all season has been the team’s depth. When they needed it most, members of the second unit have stepped up to give the Lady Royals a spark on both the offensive or defensive side of the ball. This time, it was Lia DiSciascio’s turn.
DiSciascio finished with 12 points and eight rebounds on 3-5 from the behind the arc in just 21 minutes of play.
The Lady Royals will now ride this conference championship win, and their depth into the national tournament.
Senior captain Alison Sweeney said hosting will help the team’s morale leading up to Friday.
“It definitely makes us more comfortable with our schedule, practice here, game here, we don’t have to travel anywhere,” Sweeney said. “Definitely gives us a sense of comfort and excitement for hopefully another two games.”
“I am very happy that we have it,” Coach Strong said about hosting the first round.
Coach Strong said the team is playing with a lot of confidence and they all feel they deserve to be in this position.
“We are not a Cinderella team,” Coach Strong said. “We expect to be here, the kids have worked extremely hard this year, we’re talented, the chemistry is excellent, so this is not a surprise to me.”
Monday, the NCAA announced the 2014 bracket. The Lady Royals learned they would play the second game of a double header against Bridgewater State College (16-11)at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the John Long Center.
Bridgewater College is one of three teams with less than 20 wins to make the NCAA Tournament.
The first game will feature Vassar College (22-5) and Williams College (20-5), the team that knocked the Lady Royals out of the national tournament last season.
Contact the writer: