Lopers dancing for the first time in 12 years
UNK women’s basketball heading to NCAA Division II National Tournament
KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - The Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball beat fifth-ranked Fort Hays State in the MIAA tournament final. It was the Lopers first tournament title and their first win over the Tigers this season. The win gave them the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. It is their first appearance since 2009.
“To be able to have that kind of success in a tournament setting in our league is like I said not easy to do. And you know, I’m just really proud of our team,” UNK women’s basketball coach Carrie Eighmey said.
After the game, the tweet below gained traction and showed the team was playing for a lot more than a MIAA trophy.
“I threw it out there as kind of a joke but I think I’m going to be held to it now and we’re going to end up with a hot tub,” Eighmey said.
“One of our managers says, ‘I know how to pour concrete.’ So, we’re already in the process of getting that going,” Junior forward Elisa Backes said.
The Lopers celebration did not end with the hot tub as the selection show aired later that night.
“To see your school name show up and to see where you’re seeded and who you’re going to be playing and those kind of things, I think is a special thing for a team,” Eighmey said.
“Last year was a bummer in both the tournament and not getting our name called,” Backes said. “So, finally to get some recognition for working so hard and even getting that number two seed and the bye is awesome. We’re really excited to keep pushing to see how far we can really go with it.”
More than a celebration, earning a spot in the national tournament was a reminder for Coach Eighmey of what she has done the last six years in Kearney.
“It’s been a process,” Eighmey said. “It takes time and energy and effort and sacrifice. You know we just, it’s just a lot of credit to our team.”
Given everything that has happened the last year, the success they had goes beyond the court.
“It was important for us to give hope and joy to people and that was kind of our challenge at times to our team for us to go out and play in a way that people feel good about life in a time when things aren’t going so well,” Eighmey said.
“It’s been a really long tough year,” Backes said. “I mean in basketball, outside of basketball for everybody. So, to have this chance and opportunity to play in something fun and normal outside of COVID and everything is really awesome.”
UNK is the second seed in the Central Region and opens tournament play playing the winner of #3 Minnesota-Duluth/#6 Emporia St.
Tip-off is at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 13. The University of Central Missouri is the host of the Central Region.
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