No. 11 Gulls set to host NCAA first round against Bears

No. 11 Gulls set to host NCAA first round against Bears

SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 11 Salisbury University women's basketball team will host Bridgewater State University on Friday, March 6 for a first-round matchup in the NCAA Division III women's basketball tournament. This is the first time in program history that the two teams have met on the court. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m., in Maggs Physical Activities Center.

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How We Got Here

The Sea Gulls went 17-1 in Capital Athletic Conference play in the regular season, earning them the top seed in the postseason tournament along with a first-round bye. Meeting up with fifth-seed York College of Pennsylvania in the semifinals, Salisbury pulled out a late-game push to advance past the Spartans, 76-61, behind senior Anna Hackett's 21 points and eight assists and senior Melanie Mocniak's double-double effort of 17 points and 10 rebounds. In the championship against second-seed University of Mary Washington, the Gulls needed two overtimes to put away the Eagles and hoist the championship trophy for the first time in 13 years. With the victory, Salisbury earned the conference's automatic bid into the national tournament.

How They Got Here

The Bears defeated Salem State University in the regular-season finale to sew up the No. 2 seed in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, which earned them a first-round bye. Maintaining a 14-10 overall record entering the league tournament, Bridgewater needed to pull out the conference's automatic bid to earn a spot into the big dance. In the semifinals, the Bears hosted third-seed Worcester State University, advancing past the Lancers, 59-45, to earn a spot in the title game for the fifth-straight year. Bridgewater traveled to top-seed Westfield State University where the Bears would upset the Owls, 60-57, on a late three-pointer by senior Rachel Kusz. With the victory, the Bears earned the conference's automatic bid into the national tournament.

Salisbury in the NCAA Tournament

This will be the sixth appearance in the big dance for the Sea Gulls, holding a 3-5 all-time record. The last time SU stamped its ticket was in 2001-'02. Earning the automatic bid on their third-consecutive conference title, the Gulls defeated Kean University, 67-49, in the second round before falling to Marymount (Va.) University in the sectional semifinals, 79-52.

Bridgewater in the NCAA Tournament

This will be the 10th appearance in the national tournament for the Bears, maintaining a 2-11 record all-time, dating back to 1982-'83. Making the big dance last season, Bridgewater fell early, dropping an 88-63 decision against the University of Scranton in the first round.

Unchartered Territory

Putting together a record-breaking season, the trip to the NCAA tournament is new to everyone on the Salisbury squad. The past three seasons saw the Gulls come up short in the conference semifinals, ending their year earlier than preferred. Even Kelly Lewandowski, in her fourth season at the helm, will be making her first appearance in the NCAA tournament as a head coach for Salisbury. Lewandowski though has been in the tournament as a player from 2002-'06 with Scranton, making the big dance all four seasons on the squad, including two trips to the Final Four.

Hacking Through the Competition

Hackett has put together an incredible season, including a career best in points with 483. Moving her way up the program's all-time scoring list to No. 2 with 1,724 points through four seasons, the senior point guard earned CAC Player of the Week twice eventually culminating in the highest honor of being named Player of the Year. Leading the Sea Gulls in scoring, averaging 17.9 points per game, the Germantown, Maryland native went 18 games with scoring 15-plus points, including nine contests of 20-plus points. In the NCAA, she currently sits 13th in active career leaders in points and seventh in assists (498) through her 107 games played in. Adding to her accolades, she is a four-time All-CAC honoree, two-time D3hoops.com All-District member, and named to the Team of the Week once on March 3 this season.

Best Duo in the CAC

Senior Sarah Seipp and Hackett have put on quite a show this season, as the two landed in the top five in scoring in the CAC. Hackett came in at No. 2, averaging 17.9 points per game, while Seipp comes in at No. 5 with 15.3 per game. Hackett also ranked second in the league in assists (4.2) and Seipp came in at fourth in steals (2.7). Both players eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in their junior seasons, as Seipp sits with 1,574 currently.

Setting New Barriers

The Sea Gulls have reached new heights this season, rebuilding the program to a nationally-ranked competitor. Going 17-1 in the conference was not only a new program record for league victories in a single season, but it also was a new feat in CAC women's basketball history. The previous record was set by Mary Washington and York with 16. With the conference championship, Salisbury also reached a new record for overall wins in a single season. Currently at 25-2 this season, the previous record was 24, a tally that had been reached in back-to-back seasons at the beginning of the new millennium.

What's Next?

Pending a victory by the Gulls on Friday night, they would advance to the second round on Saturday night against the winner of the other Friday first-round matchup hosted at Maggs between Stockton University and McDaniel College. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.

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