Lady Diggers Qualify for NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship Tournament
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially released the field of 32 teams for the 2011 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship. The 31st annual event will be played out March 16 – 22 at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn. The Montana Tech Lady Diggers will be among the 32 teams packing up and hitting the court in Tennessee next week. This is the second year in a row the Lady Orediggers have qualified for the National Championship Tournament. "I am very proud of our student-athletes and coaches," announced Joe McClafferty, Athletic Director at Montana Tech. Our women’s basketball program is on the rise and is setting a tradition of winning for Lady Digger Basketball. We are excited at the opportunity to compete against the best programs in the NAIA."
The NAIA will partner with the Victory Sports Network (VSN) on the announcement of the 32-team National Championship bracket at 6 p.m. CST. VSN will be the exclusive home for the live, free video-streaming show to air on www.VictorySportsNetwork.com. The Division I women's show will run from 6-6:30 p.m., with the Division I men's show to follow from 7-7:30 p.m. The 32-team field is comprised of 18 automatic qualifiers from NAIA affiliated conferences and association of independents, plus 14 at-large selections, which are determined using the final Top 25 rating released on Wednesday.
"We are so excited to head back to the National Tournament in Tennessee again this year," added Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kerie DePell. "Last year was a great experience, and we’re looking to improve on our performance from a year ago. I’m so proud of our team, with the accomplishments and milestones they’ve achieved this year, they deserve it 100%. This is the reward we get for all of our pre-season track workouts, weight lifting, traveling, studying on the road, and hard fought victories. The ultimate goal of any collegiate sports program is to make it to the highest level of playoffs, and compete for a championship. We get to do that and I know I couldn’t be going with a better group of people. It’s been a great year for the Lady Diggers. With the Butte community and the campus of Montana Tech coming to cheer us on, our AD Joe McClafferty getting us huge fan support all year, my wonderful assistant coach Michele at my side, and this amazing group of young ladies doing the work on the court, it’s been a great ride!"
Two-time defending national champion Union (Tenn.) leads the field with its 22nd total and 19th-consecutive trip to the event. The Lady Bulldogs have taken home the banner five times, including back-to-back titles in 2005-06 after winning their first title in 1999. There are eight additional squads that have advanced to the national championship 10-or more times.
Twenty-two teams that played in Jackson last season will be back and eyeing a shot at the title, including the Montana Tech Lady Diggers. California Baptist ends a 29-year drought, advancing for the first time since 1982 after winning the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament Championship.
Thirty-one games will be played in Jackson. The first 30 games will be video-streamed by NeuLion, the parent company of JumpTV.
The National Championship final on March 22 will be televised live nationally on CBS College Sports Television with tip-off at 7 p.m. CST.