UPDATE: UMM women's team to face former coach in NCAA tournament
The University of Minnesota, Morris women's basketball team will play Coe College in the first round of the NCAA Division III national tournament on March 4.
The Kohawks are led by former UMM head and assistant coach Randi Peterson, who took over as Coe's head coach in August 2006.
In fact, the Cougars will be familiar with a few people on the Kohawks' bench. Coe assistant coach Nate Oakland was an assistant at UMM until 2006 and assistant coach Jamie Rainey played for the Cougars.
The first round and second round games of the tournament will be played at Coe College in Iowa. Coe was the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament champion and is 24-3 overall.
The Cougars are making their second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. In their first last year, Morris lost 86-64 to eventual Elite Eight team Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
If the Cougars can get by Coe, they would play March 5 against the winner of the Lewis and Clark (21-6) and Howard Payne (21-7) first-round game at Coe.
Peterson, a 2001 graduate of the University of Iowa, spent one season as the head coach at UMM. The Cougars were 16-10 in 2005-2006 and Peterson was named the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Before being named the head coach at Morris, Peterson was an assistant coach for two years for the Cougars. Prior to her arrival at Morris, the Cougars were 1-26. She helped improve the records to 13-14, 10-15, and 16-10 over the next three seasons.The Cougars enter the tournament having won 17-straight games. They are 21-6 after starting the season 4-6.
On Saturday, the Cougars clinched their spot with their 82-74 win over Northwestern in the UMAC Tournament Championship game.
Behind just the latest in a season packed with impressive performances from Steph Roggenbuck, the Cougars stamped their ticket back to the big dance with an win over Northwestern.
The top-two seeds in the UMAC women's tournament, the No. 1 Cougars and No. 2 Eagles did not disappoint. Morris led nearly the entire way, but didn't take a double digit lead until late in the game. Northwestern trailed by as much as seven in the first half, but put a late run together to take the lead in the final two minutes before Morris answered and took a 31-28 advantage into the locker rooms at the half.
Shining brightly in this heavyweight battle were the teams stars, Roggenbuck for the Cougars and Katie DeWitt for the Eagles. Roggenbuck finished with her fifth double-double of the season - her third against the Eagles - with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while DeWitt was nearly unstoppable with 37 points.
The Cougars got out ahead early, and took their biggest lead of the first half when an Emily Mehr lay-up made it 14-7 at the 13:03 mark. Mehr finished as the Cougars' second leading scorer with 16 points, and now has a season-long stretch of five straight games in double figures.
The Cougars went back up seven at the 8:52 mark after Abby Fragodt made it 20-13 when Kelsey Erickson found her all alone under the basket. The helper was one of five for Erickson, and one of 26 for the NCAA leading Cougars, their second highest mark of the season.
After the Fragodt basket, the Eagles began to chip away, scoring six straight points to pull within one on a DeWitt lay-in to make it 20-19 with 7:02 to play.
Less than four minutes later, the Cougars were back up four when Alyssa Silva made it 26-22, but the Eagles answered with a 6-0 run to take their first lead at 28-26 with just 2:25 left in the half. Back-to-back threes from DeWitt and Mollie Sir had the Eagles on top.
Up to the challenge, the Cougars went on a 5-0 run to close the half, capped by another Silva lay-in at the buzzer. Morris would never trail again.
The Cougars got 10 points from each Mehr and Tara Thielke in the second half, and 14 from Jenni Noordmans, as they locked up a championship. Noordmans did all her scoring in the second half, while Thielke finished with 14. And they needed every point, as DeWitt drained 21 in the second.
With the outcome still undecided, a crucial foul called on Noordmans sent DeWitt to the line for three shots. After stealing the ball, DeWitt pulled up well behind the arc when Noordmans appeared to poke the ball away, but was called for the foul. Despite head coach Tim Grove and Noordmans pleading their case, DeWitt lined up for the three attempts with her team down seven at 75-68 with just 1:15 left.
She made two of the three, but the Cougars answered by going 8-of-9 at the line in the final minute to close out the win.
With 22 wins, the Cougars have their most since a team record 25 in the 1982-83 season. They'll look for their 23rd on Friday.