By: Nick Brune, Staff Writer
The Shirk Center will host the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament this weekend.
The 14 ranked Titans will take on Marietta college (24-4) for the first time in program history in round one.
Other teams in the field include Depauw (25-2) and Trine (24-3) who will will tip off at 5 p.m. The Titans will play immediately following at 7 p.m. This is the second straight year they will compete in the tournament.
The Titans had one of their best seasons in years. They finished a record of 22-3 and only one conference loss.
After losing two straight early in the year, the Titans rolled through December and January winning 16 straight.
Illinois Wesleyan then finished at the top of the CCIW and hosted the four team CCIW tournament, which they won by taking down rival Wheaton in a 62-60 naibitter in front of an electric home crowd.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had at IWU. The gym was electric and we definitely fed off the energy from our fans,” junior Nina Anderson said.
Senior Rebekah Ehresman led the charge for Illinois Wesleyan with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
She seemed to step up her game when the team needed her most, scoring 8 points in the final quarter to secure the victory.
Senior Molly Mcgraw and Anderson also scored in double digits, both totaling 11 points.
Illinois Wesleyan is known throughout Division 3 as a prolific offensive team, as they have been ranked in the top 5 for total offense all year and average 84.5 points per game.
The Titans also force their opponents to turn the ball over at a high rate, which was key in the CCIW Championship when they forced a fundamentally sound Wheaton Thunder into 21 turnovers.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be hosting the first round of the NCAA tournament! This is what we’ve been playing for and we’re so excited to be able to have another opportunity on our home court.” Anderson said.
“We are ready to take care of business this weekend so we can continue in the tournament.”
The Titans are led by seniors Rebekah Ehresman and Molly Mcgraw, both of whom were named first team all CCIW this year and have been key players in the Titan’s starting five for their entire careers.
Ehresman was recognized as this year’s CCIW Most Outstanding Player.
Coach Mia Smith also earned CCIW honors by being named this season’s “Coach of the Year”
This year’s tournament appearance marks the 11th time the Women’s basketball team will compete in the NCAA tournament, and they have a record of 15-10 in tournament play.
The program won a national title in 2012 and finished in the Final Four the year prior in 2011. With such a dominate season thus far and a strong offensive team led by outstanding seniors, the Titans are poised to make a strong showing.