The New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bulls and the Raider women’s basketball team. Each of these teams has dominated its particular sport many times in history, and it was apparent that the women’s basketball team at NW is no different.
Following Thursday’s 63-62 win against Tabor College the Raiders will continue on in the national tournament. For the ninth-straight year and 13th time in the team’s history, the women’s basketball team is participating. With a 42-7 all-time record, NW boasts the best record in the tournament’s history as well as the most national tournament wins with five. The Raiders have also reached the semifinals six years in a row and are on the quest for a fourth national championship in five years.
However, the team’s success this season can be traced back much farther than just a post-season run. The Raiders opened up the season on an 18-0 tear and put the rest of the GPAC on notice once again. The team finished the regular season with a 23-4 record and won the conference. This gave the team an outright bid to the national tournament. However, the Raiders were not done sending a message and ended up winning the post-season conference tournament as well, which they have done two out of the past four years.
“Even at the biggest stages, it’s not about the X’s and O’s or wins and losses,” head coach Chris Yaw said. “It’s about enjoying the moment, taking things one day at a time and being a blessing to those around us.”
Senior guard Alli Engebretson, a first-team all-conference pick as well as a two-time national champion, leads the team with 19.3 points per game and averages 7.3 rebounds. Senior post Samantha Kleinsasser, averages 16.1 points and also grabs 7.3 rebounds per game. Kleinsasser was also a first-team all-conference pick. Junior guard Karen Hutson averages 16.6 points per game and led the GPAC with 55 percent shooting from the field. Hutson earned second-team all-conference honors.
“Having such great leadership on our team has been key — especially in the bigger games,” Yaw said. “The seniors have been our ammunition leading us, and it has paid dividends.”
The team, ranked third in the NAIA in scoring with an average of 90 points per game, has been known for its efficient and show-time-like offense. However, the squad is equally effective on the defensive end of the floor and has held opponents to only 70 points per game on a mere 38 percent shooting from the floor.
“Over the last few weeks, our foremost goal is to defend the way we know that we are capable of defending,” Yaw said. “And we have been working on being absolutely intentional about our rebounding.”
The Raiders will play today at 1:45 p.m against Huntington.