UAA women make basketball playoffs, face Pomona on Friday

Beth Bragg

The UAA women's basketball team is headed to California to take on the top-seeded team in the NCAA Division II West Region playoffs. The Seawolves, seeded eighth in the eight-team tournament, play Cal Poly Pomona on Friday.

Don't ask the Seawolves who else is in the tournament, because Sunday's announcement of the tournament field began with the No. 1 vs. No. 8 pairing, and once the players heard their season wasn't over, they made enough noise to drown out the rest of the announcement.

"There was a bunch of screaming," coach Ryan McCarthy said.

The team gathered at the Wells Fargo Sports Center for the announcement. The Seawolves will leave for California on Wednesday and will play Friday at 6:30 p.m. ADT.

UAA (19-8) was ranked fifth in last week's West Region rankings, which by and large determine the eight-team field.

But those rankings came out before UAA lost to Saint Martin's in a first-round game at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament. Also putting the Seawolves on edge was the fact Western Washington upset top-seeded Montana State-Billings in the title game to secure the GNAC's automatic West Region berth.

Those results plus results of other tournaments in the region left UAA a bubble team along with fellow GNAC member Seattle Pacific. UAA beat the Falcons in both regular-season meetings, but that didn't guarantee the tournament committee would chose UAA over Seattle Pacific.

"(This) tournament has surprised me before," McCarthy said.

"We thought we had a chance because of our body of work but losing to Saint Martin's in the first round didnt help and WWU winning it didn't really help. When we were announced, the girls went crazy."

The tournament field is dominated by the GNAC, which qualified four teams -- UAA, Billings (23-7), Western Washington (19-9)and Simon Fraser (19-9).

Sixth-seeded Western Washington and third-seeded Simon Fraser will meet in the first round and Billings, seeded second, will face seventh-seeded Academy of Art (23-7). The other game pits fourth-seeded Cal State Dominguez Hills (20-9) against fifth-seeed Cal State Chico (18-9).

The tournament's winner advances to the Elite Eight, which begins March 25 in Erie, Pa.

UAA hasn't played Cal Poly Pomona (22-6) this season, but McCarthy said Pomona has size and some good shooters.

"They could present some problems for us inside," he said. "But it's a team that hasn't seen us and hasn't faced our pressure defensively. I think our pressure is unique."