For the third consecutive year in a row, Montclair State will be hosting the opening two rounds of the NCAA DIII Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Red Hawks (21-6) will be hosting SUNY Polytechnic Institute on Friday, March 4.
The women’s basketball team earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament after winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference title on Feb. 26, but the team didn’t know who or where they would be playing. In Panzer Athletic Center’s Hall of Fame Room, the players and coaches eagerly waited in the for their name to be called during the selection show on Feb. 29.
Finally, after 40 other team names had been called, Montclair State appeared on the screen and the room broke out into a mixture of cheers and applause.
This will be Head Coach Karin Harvey’s fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance with the Red Hawks, yet after the selection show was over she said, “It never gets old. It’s just amazing, and it still hasn’t sunk in yet. We’re all genuinely excited.”
Junior Rachel Krauss, who hit a thrilling 3-pointer to give Montclair State a late lead in the NJAC Championship, said about the NCAA Tournament, “We’re going to go in there and give it all we have. We’re going to go out and play and see what damage we can do.”
Last year, Montclair State maneuvered their way through March Madness and reached the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history. The women’s basketball team no longer has their two senior All-Americans playing for them this year, Melissa Tobie and Janitza Aquino, but they still have a majority of last year’s players back for another tournament run.
This year’s team is young – all but four of the players are underclassmen – but last year’s run gave the younger players tournament experience. Sophomores Kate Tobie and Katie Sire started all of the team’s NCAA Tournament games and were called upon to make key contributions along the way.
Still, there are freshmen and other players that didn’t necessarily have to play under pressure along the way. Senior Kayla Ceballos, who was sidelined with a season-ending ACL injury, said she would tell the girls, “Either go hard or go home. There are probably 400 teams, and not all of them got this opportunity. Enjoy it, and play hard.”
Montclair State has not played SUNY Polytechnic this season. SUNY Polytechnic also earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by winning the North Eastern Atlantic Conference Tournament. Albright College will face Husson University on March 4 at Panzer Athletic Center. The winner of the two matchups will go on to face each other on March 5 to play for a Sweet 16 appearance.