Known as the favorite round of March Madness, the Sweet 16 means you’ve made it when it comes to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. While the women’s basketball team’s game against Calvin College this Friday probably won’t have American’s sweating over their brackets and ignoring their responsibilities to watch basketball, the Tiger’s are taking their sweet sixteen matchup against undefeated Calvin just as seriously.
Not only are the Calvin Knights currently undefeated, the game also happens to be being played on their home court, five hours away in Grand Rapids, MI. “Road trips are always fun,” said senior Hannah Lukemeyer, looking on the positive side. “We’re just looking forward to getting to play another round.”
Fellow senior Savannah Trees, who just set the record for the most points, also has a positive outlook. “They always have a great atmosphere,” she said. “It should be a fun experience.”
Even though the game is away, DePauw still has plenty of experience in the NCAA tournament from their veteran players. “Every year I get a little more locked in around NCAA tournament time,” said senior Lauren Abendroth on making the tournament for the fourth year in a row. “I know that if we lose our season will be over for good. Having that mentality forces me to focus on each possession and leave it all out there on the court.”
With that experience comes the potential end of an era at for DePauw women’s basketball, as the most winningest senior class in DIII basketball is in their last tournament. “It's crazy to think this is our last time competing in the National Tournament,” said senior Emma Ondik. “I think it gives us a little extra motivation because we don't want our careers to end.”
Abendroth shares some of the same feelings as Ondik and said, “It's a weird and emotional feeling. We've played this game our entire life and to know that it's coming to an end is tough. However, that just makes us cherish every moment more than we ever have before.”
If the seniors are planning on staying around a little while longer, they’re going to need to take down the undefeated Knights on their home court this Friday to do so. “It's going to be tough playing Calvin on their home court,” said Abendroth. “But these are the games you live for as a basketball player. Plus it puts an enormous amount of pressure on them.”
The main concerns the Knights pose, according to Abendroth, is their transition play and ability to score. “They rely a lot on their press to cause turnovers, however, we lead the nation in least turnovers per game. If we take care of the ball and execute our offense its going to be a game,” she said.
Lukemeyer talked about the preparation the Tigers are putting in on the practice court.
“We have been working on being aggressive against their press and how best to defend their penetration,” she said. “Although this is a big game, we have prepared the same for every game this year, with a focus and energy on getting a win.”
For such a talented team, going into a game as the underdog is a new feeling for the Tigers. “Hopefully being the underdog will give us the extra motivation that we need [to win],” said Trees.
The win or go home game will be played Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Calvin College.