The field is set for the NCAA Division 3 tournament, and six teams boasting Hoosier natives will be among the sixty-three teams vying for the championship. Included in that group are defending national champs DePauw, as well as Manchester, which is making its third consecutive appearance.
2007 titlist DePauw University, making its 9th trip to nationals since 1996, goes into the tournament with a 25-3 record after going undefeated against conference foes. The Tigers take a fourteen game winning streak into Friday's first round matchup against Denison University (18-10). A key player for the Big Red is junior starter Katie Sinclair (right, 6.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), formerly a standout for South Bend St. Joseph's. For DePauw, former Indiana All-Stars Cassie Pruzin and Gretchen Haehl have emerged as one of the top backcourts in the nation; Pruzin (Crown Point) averages 13.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and a team-best 4.4 assists, while Haehl (Shelbyville) contributes 10.5 points a contest. Gwen Haehl (Shelbyville) and Sarah Merkel (Evansville Memorial) are also major contributors.
A DePauw win could potentially set up a rematch of last year's national championship contest with Washington University, this time in the second round. If Washington falls, 2004 champ Wilmington College would advance. The Quakers have one Hoosier native, senior Gina Hyle (12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 54.0% FG) leading the way. Hyle, a Lawrenceburg native, attended high school in Cincinnati.
The team sporting the greatest Hoosier flavor in the field is Heartland Conference champ Manchester, who shared the regular season title with Anderson and then nipped the Ravens 52-50 over the weekend to earn the automatic bid. The veteran Spartans (19-8) showed their experience by going 9-2 in games decided by eight points or less. F.W. Carroll's Kelly Meiklejohn (14.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Sarah Bose of Perry Meridian (10.2 ppg, 3.9 apg) spearhead the attack. Manchester has suffered narrow first-round losses the previous two years to Washington University, but will look to earn their first-ever NCAA win as they square off against Wisconsin-Whitewater Friday on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan.
A potential national championship favorite is sparked at the point by an Indiana native. Thomas More College goes into tournament action with a perfect 28-0 record and #3 national ranking. Mt. Vernon (Hancock) standout Gabby Johnson has averaged 4.5 points and a team-high 3.4 assists this season as a junior. The Saints are making their third NCAA trip with Johnson as a key contributor.
The other in-state grad taking the court this week is one of The Region's very own. Nicaya Rapier (left) of Bishop Noll concludes her senior campaign in style as the University of Chicago enters NCAA action riding a 20-5 record. Rapier, the third-leading rebounder and starting forward for the Maroons, will help her team against St. Thomas (MN) in Friday's first round action at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
The Division 3 Final Four will be held March 21-22 in Holland, MI on the campus of Hope University.
Photos courtesy of the sports information departments at Denison University and the University of Chicago