INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For the seventh time in school history, the Carson-Newman Lady Eagles are in the NCAA Tournament courtesy of an at-large bid. The NCAA announced its tournament bracket Sunday night and the Lady Eagles are the No. 7 seed in the Southeast Region and will take on the No. 2 seed Columbus State (30-1) Friday at 2:30 p.m.
It is the first NCAA Tournament appearance under current head coach Mike Mincey and first trip since the 2009-10 season for Carson-Newman. The Limestone Saints are the No. 1 team in the region and will host games in the region beginning Friday afternoon.
"Since I took over the reigns as the head coach, we wanted to get back to the NCAA Tournament," Mincey said. "I made it twice as an assistant coach. Coach [Ashley] Tipton went as a player. Coach [Ashley] Kyle went as a player when they were here. We've been telling these recruits when they come in starting with Tatum [Burstrom], Jai Jai [McLaughlin] and [Carly] Pippin that this is what we are striving to do, to win championships and get to the NCAA Tournament. We know we haven't won that championship yet, but this is a big step getting to the NCAA Tournament."
Carson-Newman and Columbus State have met eight times as the Cougars hold a 5-3 lead in the series. The last meeting came at Holt Fieldhouse on November 20, 2012 as the Lady Eagles held on for a 62-61 victory as Carson-Newman scored a bucket with 18 seconds to play in the game to hold on to the win.
The Cougars won the Peach Belt Conference Tournament 63-51 Sunday over Georgia College, the only team to beat Columbus State this season, for their 16th straight win. Columbus State makes their eighth appearance and second in a row while holding a 9-7 all-time in postseason play.
The Lady Eagles are 3-6 in six previous NCAA Tournament appearances. The Lady Eagles lost 67-53 in the regional final in 2004-05, their lone trip to a regional final in school history.
The SAC put five teams into the field as the Lady Eagles had four wins against the rest of the Southeast Region eight teams. The only other conference to have five teams in the field is the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
"Our conference is obviously very strong," Mincey said. "1-12 I think it is very tough trying to win games. We started with 17 players, we lost a really athletic player in Peacher. Masengil is out with her ankles. I could go on and on down the list. There's a lot of adversity this team has gone through, but they still figured out a way to get enough victories at the end to get an at-large bid."
Mincey is the third Lady Eagle coach to lead a team into the big dance. Carson-Newman went to the NCAA Tournament twice under Eddie Carter in 1995 and 1998 while getting into the field times under Dean Walsh in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
"It's just really exciting for all of the adversity that we had this year to still be able to go to the NCAA Tournament despite what everybody thought," Kyle said. "So we are really excited and it means a lot to us."
The initial slate of games will take place Friday, March 13 with the semi-finals being play Saturday, March 14 and the championship game being held on Monday, March 16. The winner of the region will advance to the NCAA Division II Women's Elite Eight March 24-27 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Southeast Regional Pairings
#3 Anderson v. #6 Newberry, Noon
#2 Columbus State v. #7 Carson-Newman, 2:30 p.m.
#1 Limestone v. #8 Catawba, 5 p.m.
#4 Lander v. #5 Wingate, 7:30 p.m.
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