The Northwestern women’s basketball team capped off a stellar season with an elite-eight finish at the NAIA National Tournament in Sioux City last Saturday. The Raider women were awarded a No. 1 seed at the tournament, a product of their 29-5 regular-season record, with 16 of those wins and 4 losses coming in the GPAC.
Last Saturday, the Raider women played against long-time tournament rival College of the Ozarks. After a strong start and an early lead in the first 10 minutes, NW seemed to have the game under control.
College of the Ozarks then went on a couple runs to close the half and held a 10-point lead. The second half began with both teams trading buckets. Around the 15-minute mark, NW hit a dry spell. College of the Ozarks took advantage and eventually took their lead to 20.
Northwestern managed to fight its way back to 14 at one point, but the outside shooting of COO was too much. NW fell by a final score of 90-69.
Senior Alli Engebretsen finished with a game high 26-points. Although in foul trouble much of the night, senior Kenzie Small finished with a double-double, 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
“The national tournament experience is one that we cherish every year,” head coach Chris Yaw said. “Memories are made there that we definitely do not take for granted. These are times that we can look back on and remember years from now.”
The end of this season means the end of a run for seniors Sam Kleinsasser, Alli Engebretsen and Kenzie Small. The trio finished their careers with 118 wins, including two national championships, a final four appearance and an elite-eight finish this year.
They dominated the GPAC with a 65-13 record during that time and collected two GPAC regular-season and postseason titles.
“It has been an amazing run,” Kleinsasser said. “Playing alongside these girls, I have grown so close to them all. The relationships we have developed over the years will definitely not stop here with basketball.”
“I think the relationships are the biggest key with this team,” Yaw said. “These seniors have meant so much to me and my family, and I am proud of who they are and what they represent. They have left a great foundation for the next generation of leaders and really displayed qualities of confidence and a mindset of getting better every day.”
The women’s team has dealt with adversity this season, seeing the loss of players due to injuries and transfers, but they managed to bounce back and continue to compete in the tough times.
“Experience and playing time in key games was very good for some of these girls,” Yaw said. “I think that all of these girls are smarter basketball players and have learned to play the right way. The best way to win is together, and they have figured that out.”