Written by Chris Pendleton
BUENA VISTA, Va.—After closing out the regular season at 13-9, the Southern Virginia University women's basketball team today received a No. 5 seed at the 2012 USCAA Women's Basketball National Championship hosted by Penn State-Fayette in Uniontown, Pa., from Mar. 6-10.
The Knights received a No. 4 seed in last year's tournament, but lost two straight games after an opening round bye finishing seventh out of twelve teams. In this year's sixteen-team tournament, Southern Virginia is looking to redeem itself with a deep postseason run.
"We didn't play our best at the tournament last year," said senior Nicole Baker (Burley, Idaho), who is leading the Knights in both points (16.6 ppg) and rebounds (9.0 rpg). "If we play like we are capable of playing, I know we will hold our own and get some wins. This year is about redemption."
Southern Virginia is peaking at the prefect time for a postseason run having won eight of its past ten games—the Knights only two losses since Jan. 20 have been by a combined six points—heading into this year's tournament.
The Knights jumped out to a 5-1 start this season, but then stalled losing their next six contests falling two games below .500 (5-7). Since then Southern Virginia has gone 8-2, while stringing together a season-long five-game winning streak from Feb. 9 to Feb. 18.
Baker has led the Knights resurgence as the 2011 USCAA Honorable Mention All-American has averaged 23.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this semester, including a career-best 38-point performance on Feb. 11 at Bennett College.
Junior-college transfer Amaris Newkirk (Folsom, N.M.) has also been a revelation for the Knights this season averaging 11 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists on the year, while aslo recording the first triple-double (17 points, 11 points, 13 steals, 9 assists) by a women's basketball player in nearly a decade on Jan. 25 at Penn College.
Senior Cara Joyner (Columbia, Miss.), who is averaging a career-high 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds this season, and freshman Larissa Conger (Merino, Colo.), scoring 6.2 points off the bench, have also been key to Southern Virginia's success this semester.
"It's been a great run and I want to end my senior year on a positive note," Baker said.
Women's basketball will open the tournament on Wed, Mar. 7 against No. 12 Berkeley College at 9:30 p.m.