Women’s basketball will battle Wayland Baptist in opening round of nationals

The women’s basketball team makes its 10th trip to nationals after winning the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) west division regular season and tournament titles to receive an automatic bid. They will take on Wayland Baptist University (31-3) on Friday at 6 p.m. in Plainview, Texas, as part of the Duer Bracket in the first round of the 41st annual National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championship.

The Flying Queens are making their 29th overall and ninth consecutive qualification for the national tournament. Last year, Wayland Baptist was upset in the opening round of the national tournament against Mount Vernon Nazarene. The Saints are the No. 14-seeded team in the Duer Bracket, while the Flying Queens were awarded the No. 3 seed. This will be the 11th meeting between the two programs, and WBU holds a 6-4 advantage.

The winners of the opening round games will advance to the championship tournament that will take place at Tysons Event Center in Sioux City, Iowa, from March 17-22.

Head Coach Jillian Flores Bennett, named RRAC Coach of the Year, commented, “We are excited for a rematch against Wayland Baptist University. We are a different team now than we were in November. We have the second-longest winning streak in the nation. We are hoping we can continue to gain respect in the opening round.”

This year’s Opening Round field includes 38 automatic qualifiers and 26 at-large selections. Automatic berths were given to teams that either won their respective conference tournament title, regular-season championship, finished runner-up at the conference tournament, were the third regular-season finisher or were selected by the final conference ARC rating. The at-large bids were determined by the Women’s Basketball National Selection Committee. This committee consists of one representative from each geographical area and six at-large members. The committee evaluated teams throughout the year on various criteria.

OLLU completed an undefeated RRAC regular season with a 14-0 mark and won the postseason tournament by defeating LSU-Shreveport in the championship game on March 1. Natalia Trevino was awarded the RRAC MVP award for her play throughout the postseason tournament, where she averaged 19.3 points per game and had a 49.5 shooting percentage. Keviona Barber was named RRAC Player of the Year by averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game during the season. The Saints are currently riding a 16-game winning streak.