Twelve at-large bids were handed out for the NAIA Division II men’s national tournament.
After three harrowing days, Midland University found out it got No. 11.
The 25th-ranked Warriors (19-12) are making just their third trip — and first as an at-large team — to the national event this week in Point Lookout, Mo. They open against Eastern Oregon at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday.
York College, Northwestern and Bellevue University also advanced. Morningside, Briar Cliff, Concordia, College of St. Mary and Northwestern will compete in the women’s national tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.
Coach Todd Eisner said it helped that Midland plays in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, where it finished third at 12-8 and lost in the tournament semifinals to champion Dordt. Ten of its losses were against teams that have won 20 games or more.
“We play in a great league. I think that was our No. 1 drawing card,” Eisner said. “The GPAC is really respected at our level across the country. We played a very strong schedule. I think those were kind of the two things that ran together.”
As one of the last teams in the tournament, the Warriors didn’t get an easy opener. Eastern Oregon (28-4) had been ranked first in the country earlier this season before falling to No. 8 after losing in its conference tournament.
It has two Division I transfers as well as several junior college players. Eisner said the Mountaineers remind him of his teams at Bellevue: really athletic while playing with a bit of an edge.
The Warriors will have to try to force them into tough shots and minimize their second chances, since they are averaging 14.3 offensive rebounds a game.
“If we can do those two things, our chances go way up,” Eisner said. “If we don’t, it’s going to be a long day.”
Midland will counter with an offense led by James Parrott, Galen Gullie and Ben Imig, all Omaha Bryan graduates. Senior Jerome Vaughn also has been solid inside.
“When those four are productive,” Eisner said, “we’ve been pretty successful.”
Panthers ready for NAIA tourney opener
York College will get an early start to its first appearance at the NAIA Division II national tournament.
The Panthers kick off the event with an 8:30 a.m. game Wednesday against Davenport (Mich.) University. The school will show the game at the Campbell Activity Center on Wednesday.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” coach Delton Deal said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The Panthers drove down Monday to get ready for the early start.
York shared the MCAC regular-season title with Bellevue, finishing 23-8 and 12-4.
Thad Varmall, a senior guard from Dallas, leads the team, averaging 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds.
“Rebounding is going to be the key for sure. We didn’t rebound great down the stretch and it’s something we need to improve on,” Deal said. “Davenport is a big team and it will be a big part of the game.”
In other tournament news:
>> The No. 1 Morningside women have three Nebraskans in their starting five. Hanna Blum, a senior forward from Gretna, is averaging 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. Shelby Beaudette, a senior guard from Walthill, is averaging 7.6 points and 2.3 rebounds. Junior guard Leann Osten, from Columbus, averages 6.1 points and 2.8 rebounds.
The Mustangs are making their 11th straight appearance and will play Webber International at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
>> Briar Cliff hopes to have sophomore Mattie Murren, a graduate of Wahoo, back for the Chargers’ game with Siena Heights (Mich.). The first-team All-GPAC selection, who averages 11.9 points and leads the team with 63 3-pointers, has missed four games with a concussion. Senior Sara Reeves, from Wahoo Neumann, averages 11.8 points, shoots a team-best 50 percent from the field and leads the team with 64 steals.
In other news
>> The UNK wrestling team left Monday for this weekend’s NCAA Division II Championships in Birmingham, Ala. The wrestling, swimming and diving and track and field championships are being held in the same location as part of a sports festival.
Top-ranked St. Cloud State, Division II newcomer Notre Dame College (Ohio) and MIAA member Central Oklahoma join the Lopers as schools with nine individuals in the tournament.
Loper senior Raufeon Stots is the defending national champ at 149 pounds and is ranked No. 1. He has a tough first-round matchup in No. 7 Nate Herda of Augustana. His other competition will come from UCO’s Jordan Basks and Maryville’s Keenan Hagerty.
Senior Chase Nelson (165) and junior Patrick Martinez (174) are ranked second in their weight classes. Both have national tournament experience. Nelson previously wrestled at Oklahoma while Martinez was at Wyoming.
>> Former Chadron State wrestling coach Scott Ritzen will be inducted into the NCAA Division II Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Ala., in conjunction with the national championships.
>> Minnesota State’s Chris Reed, a graduate of Omaha Central, has been named the Northern Sun indoor field athlete of the year.
Reed broke the school record in the shot put (59 feet, ¾ inches) last weekend at the NSIC championships. He’s ranked third in the shot and fifth in the weight throw (63-9¾) heading into the NCAA Division II indoor championships this weekend.
>> Deanna Dirkschneider (shot put), Taylor Tacha (60 hurdles) and Tommie Bardsley (high jump) will compete for Nebraska Wesleyan this weekend at the NCAA Division III indoor track and field championships in Naperville, Ill. Dirkschneider ranks 10th at 45-8 and Tacha seventh at 8.86 seconds.
>> Former Chadron State football player Danny Woodhead has been named to the 40th anniversary tribute team by NCAA Division II. He was one of two athletes chosen from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to help mark the 40th anniversary of Division II competition.
>> University of Nebraska at Kearney senior Jon Henderson has been picked as an honorable mention selection for the All-MIAA team. He led the Lopers in scoring (16.0) and assists (2.9) and was second in 3-pointers made (51).
>> Former Concordia football and track and field standout Matt Baller broke a world record Friday with a raw bench press of 563 pounds at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. While competing as a member of the International Powerlifting Federation, Baller finished third with a combined total of 833 kilograms (equivalent to roughly 1,836 pounds) in the bench press, squat and dead lift.
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