Courtesy: University of Providence Sports Information
After a week of practices that for all the team knew were in preparation for games that don’t exist, and a senior class wondering if it had played its last games or not, the University of Providence women’s basketball team finally got an answer – the season will continue. The Lady Argos had been sitting on the bubble for an at-large bid to the 2018 NAIA DI Women’s Basketball National Championship, but gathered in the school’s student center to watch the NAIA Bracket Reveal, the team learned its season would continue.
UP will be a 7-seed in the tournament and got a daunting draw in the first round. Right off the bat, the Lady Argos will face defending national champion (2-seed) Oklahoma City University. OCU has won nine NAIA title, and were led by the NAIA Player of the Year in 2016-17. That player has since graduated and the Stars enter the tournament with a record of 28-5.
The Lady Argos are in the national tournament for the third time in program history and the past two trips were a big success. In both of the team’s previous tournament appearances, the team went 2-1, making it to the quarterfinals.
During each of those appearances the team was led by a star season. In 2014-14 that senior was center Lindsey Abramson and in 2015-16 it was guard Erin Legel. This year’s version is senior guard Stephanie McDonagh, a two-time Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Year. She and senior guard Molly Herron were on the team for both previous tournament runs and are joined by redshirt-senior Kallee Wilson, and junior Sidney Arant who were on part of the 2015-16 squad. Along with the players, Legel is now part of the team’s coaching staff.
The last time UP and OCU faced was actually during the 2014-15 national tournament. The Stars knocked the Lady Argos out of the tournament with an 88-52 win over UP in the quarterfinals. McDonagh was a freshman in that game and had 7 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal in 38 minutes on the floor.
UP is one of four teams from the Frontier Conference to make the 2018 NAIA tournament. The conference also sent four teams last year, and put in a good showing with three of the four making it to the second round and Lewis-Clark State College making the National Championship game.
This year, LC State isn’t one of the four. As a 3-seed, Carroll College will be the highest placed Frontier team in the 2018 tournament, followed by (4-seed) University of Montana Western, (5-seed) Rocky Mountain College, and then the Lady Argos.
For the second straight year, Rocky Mountain College will host the tournament in the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Montana. The tournament will run from March 14-20 with UP’s first game being played on March 15 at 2:15 p.m.