MONTCLAIR, N.J. – After posting two victories in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament, the No. 11 Salisbury University women's basketball team travels to Montclair State University for a matchup against No. 12 Amherst College in the Sweet 16 on Friday, March 13. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m., in Panzer Athletic Center.
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How We Got Here
With a victory over the University of Mary Washington in the Capital Athletic Conference championship, the Gulls earned the conference's automatic bid into the national tournament, the first time in 13 years. In first-round play, Salisbury overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to Bridgewater State University to claim a 66-63 decision and advance to the second round against Stockton University. Only allowing 19 points in the second half by the Ospreys, the Gulls powered through Stockton, 61-54, to move into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001-'02.
How They Got Here
Falling in the quarterfinals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament to Bowdoin, the Lord Jeffs earned an at-large bid into the big dance. Coasting past Eastern University, 68-51, in first-round play, Amherst met up with New York University in the second round. Holding the Violets to just 12 first-half points, the Lord Jeffs put the game away early, recording a 70-47 victory to advance to the Sweet 16.
Friday night's contest between the two squads will mark the first time in program history that they have met on the hardwood.
Salisbury in the NCAA Tournament
Currently in their sixth appearance in the big dance, the Sea Gulls hold a 5-5 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.
Climbing Program Records
With her second assist against Bridgewater State in the first round, senior point guard Anna Hackett reached a new milestone in her stellar career with the Sea Gulls, recording her 500th assist. Finishing with a team-high eight assists in that game along with three against Stockton, she currently sits with 509 helpers through 109 games, placing her third in program history. Also with a program's second-best 1,766 points, Hackett becomes the only player to reach the 1,700-500 club through 89 years of the program. Of the other two former Sea Gulls with over 500 assists, Amy Cooke (1995-'99) is the closest to Hackett in points with 1,138.
Spark of the Sixth Woman
Sophomore Lauren Rothfeld has not started a single game this season, but she makes quite a spark when she touches the court. Playing in all 29 contests this year for an average of 19.9 minutes per game, the Dresher, Pennsylvania native has been a key part of the full-court pressure and defense as a whole. Playing the top piece of the pressure, her length and anticipation forces crucial steals, including four in each the first- and second-round games last weekend. The guard concluded the weekend with a combined eight steals, 11 rebounds and 22 points.
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 18.1 points per game, while Seipp comes in at No. 5 with 15.1 per game. Hackett also ranked second in the league in assists (4.3) and Seipp came in at fourth in steals (2.9). Both players eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in their junior seasons, as Seipp sits with 1,599 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 27-2 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.
Knowing What It Takes
Head Coach Kelly Lewandowski is in her fourth year at the helm of the program, making her first appearance in the national tournament as a coach, but not through her basketball career. As a player for the University of Scranton from 2002-'06, Lewandowski was a part of a squad that went to the big dance all four seasons, including two trips to the Final Four.
Pending a Salisbury victory on Friday night against Amherst, it would advance to the sectional final on Saturday against the winner of the other sectional semifinal game between Montclair State and Bowdoin College. Saturday's game is set to begin at 6 p.m., in Panzer Athletic Center.