After roping in 22 wins during their inaugural Summit League Season, the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team received their first-ever bid into the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The Coyotes (22-7) will host Drake University (18-15) in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday, March 15 at 7 p.m. in the DakotaDome.
Head coach Ryun Williams said participating in a post-season tournament was one of the team’s goals heading into the season.
“Making it into a post-season tournament was top priority at the beginning of the season,” Williams said. “Anytime a team can come together and make something become reality like that is something special. This opportunity really means a lot.”
The 64-team field for the WNIT was announced Monday night just before 11 p.m. and included fellow Summit League teams Oral Roberts and University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The most recent match-up between these two teams took place on Feb. 28, 1981 in Des Moines, Iowa where the Bulldogs overcame the Coyotes with ease, winning 114-52. Drake holds a 4-0 all-time record against the Coyotes.
For Williams, focus for Thursday is directed on shutting-down the Drake’s senior forward and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Rachael Hackbarth.
“We need to contain Hackbarth,” Williams said. “She is a very talented post player. With that said, they run some good stuff on the offensive side of things, so our defense needs to be ready. We will need to be efficient on offense as well; they don’t often give up anything of defense. We are going to need to be at our very best.”
While the Coyotes are not eligible to make a bid at the NCAA Tournament during their transition into Division I, this is the team’s second consecutive national post-season tournament appearance after participating in the 2011 Women’s Basketball Invitational.
USD comes into the post-season hot off a 12-1 run during the final 13 games of the season, wherein the Coyotes defeated fellow WNIT qualifiers Oral Roberts and UMKC, along with NCAA Tournament qualifier and rival South Dakota State.
“The team is used to this kind of short term preparation,” Williams said. “During the regular season we took things game by game, never looking past our current this opponent, and (Drake) is no different. At this point in the season, team’s have seen everything their opponents have to offer, so we just need to go out there and do what we do best.”
The Bulldogs head into the tournament after a falling to Creighton University 53-38 in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship.
Thursday night’s winner will move on to the second round where they will face the winner of the Colorado vs. Northern Colorado game on March 14.
Second round play is scheduled for March 17-19.
Tickets for Thursday game are $15 for adults and $5 for USD students and youth.