FGCU Women's Basketball Invited to NCAA Division II Tournament
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team received their first-ever NCAA Division II tournament bid and will play a first-round South Region game on Friday, March 10 against Rollins College.
The fifth-seeded Eagles will compete in the eight-team South Regional in Arkadelphia, Arkansas – home of second-seeded Henderson State University, runner-up of the Gulf South Conference. Three conference champions, Delta State of the Gulf South Conference, Paine College of the Southern Intercollegiate Conference, and the University of Tampa of the Sunshine State Conference received automatic bids.
The Eagles received an at-large invitation as one of the 64 teams selected for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship when the field was announced Sunday night by the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Committee. FGCU was awarded one of 42 at-large bids and was the only Independent team selected in the South Region. 22 teams received an automatic bid through conference championships.
Eight regional tournaments, consisting of eight teams each, will be conducted at campus sites March 10, 11 and 13. The regional champions will advance to the Women’s Elite Eight March 22, 23 and 25 at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Henderson State University and the Hot Springs Convention Center will host the Elite Eight.
The University of West Florida will join fellow GSC members Henderson State and Delta State in the field. Rollins and Tampa will represent the Sunshine State Conference while Paine College is joined by Fort Valley State from the SIAC to round out the regional field.
Led by fourth-year head coach Karl Smesko, the Eagles finished the season with a 28-1 overall record and 21-1 mark against South Region opponents. They have won 16 consecutive games since their only loss back in December. FGCU is now in its fourth season of competition and second year of NCAA post-season eligibility.
FGCU is led by a trio of all-South Region candidates – senior guard Candy Myers (Leipsic, Ohio), senior guard Ebonie Halliburton (East St. Louis, Ill.) and junior forward Katie Schrader (Fort Collins, Colo.). The Eagles also rely on the strong play of starters Jessica Hathaway (Fort Wayne, Ind.), a sophomore forward, and junior forward Alex Nelson (Edinburgh, Scotland). Junior Jen Conely (Warren, Minn.), the team’s sixth man, is among the team leaders in scoring and one of the top three-point shooters in the country.
Guided by head coach Glen Wilkes, Jr., now in his 20th season, No. 8 nationally-ranked Rollins will bring an identical 28-1 overall record into the South Region. The Tars were 16-0 in the SSC regular season to capture a record 10th regular season championship before being upset 56-47 by Tampa in their quest for a third straight conference tournament title. They are led by senior Joslyn Giles and sophomore Jennifer Musgrove.
Game times will be announced on Monday.
South Regional (Arkadelphia, Ark.)
Delta State (#1) v. Tampa (#8)
Rollins (#4) v. Florida Gulf Coast (#5)
Fort Valley State (#3) v. West Florida (#6)
Henderson State (#2) v. Paine (#7)