American, Holy Cross Garner Postseason Tournament Bids

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Patriot League Player of the Year Lisa Strack and American head to Villanova Thursday in the first round of the WNIT.
Patriot League Player of the Year Lisa Strack and American head to Villanova Thursday in the first round of the WNIT.

March 12, 2012

2012 WNIT Bracket

2012 WBI Bracket

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - American, which captured the Patriot League regular-season crown by becoming the first team to go a perfect 14-0 in League play, will head north to the Philadelphia suburbs to take on Villanova Thursday in the first round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), it was announced late Monday night. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.

Patriot League Women's Basketball Preseason Preview Get Acrobat Reader

Joining the Eagles in the postseason is Patriot League runner-up Holy Cross (18-14), which will host New Hampshire Thursday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the 16-team Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI). 2012 marks the first time three Patriot League schools are gearing up for postseason play in women's basketball. Holy Cross earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament's East region.

The Eagles (23-7) earned an automatic bid to the WNIT by being the team with the best conference record in the League that did not get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. American earned the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League Tournament but fell to fifth-seeded Holy Cross in the semifinals.

The winner of the American-Villanova matchup will take on the winner between Illinois State and Central Michigan, which is also set to take place Thursday at Illinois State. Second round games are slated for March 17-19.

American is making its League-best fourth trip to the WNIT in five years. American fell at Old Dominion 63-55 in its last appearance in 2010. The Eagles played James Madison in 2009, falling 61-59, and lost 53-52 to Villanova in 2008.

2012 marks the sixth consecutive season in which a Patriot League team has gone to the WNIT. Lehigh made its first appearance in the tournament a season ago, losing 77-43 at St. Bonaventure. Holy Cross made the League's inaugural foray into the WNIT in 2002, while Bucknell earned a berth in 2007.

Not only did American run the table during Patriot League play, but it also captured most of the League's major awards at the end of the regular season. Senior Lisa Strack was named Player of the Year, while classmate Ebony Edwards was honored as Defensive Player of the Year. Matt Corkery garnered Coach of the Year honors, while sophomore Alexis Dobbs was named Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

The Wildcats (17-14) were seeded 10th in the BIG EAST Tournament and advanced to the second round before falling to Louisville. Villanova and American share one common opponent in Lehigh. The Wildcats won 62-54 in overtime in Bethlehem, Pa., on Nov. 30, while the Eagles swept the Patriot League series from the Mountain Hawks with wins on Jan. 11 (55-49) and Feb. 8 (67-50).

Holy Cross was aiming for its 12th Patriot League title in its 16th appearance in the championship game Saturday, but the Crusaders fell 57-48 at No. 3 Navy. The Crusaders become the first Patriot League team to make an appearance in the WBI.

Holy Cross matched up against New Hampshire Dec. 3, with the Crusaders winning 61-50 in Durham, N.H. The victory was the 500th in the coaching career of Bill Gibbons, who is in his 27th season in Worcester.

The Holy Cross-New Hampshire winner will take on the winner between No. 1 seed Robert Morris and No. 8 Manhattan, also set for Thursday at 7 p.m. Second round games are slated for Saturday or Sunday.

New Hampshire is 16-13 entering the WBI after falling 59-57 to UMBC in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament.

Patriot League Postseason Notebook

American is making a habit of postseason play as it appears in the WNIT for the fourth time in the last five years. The Eagles bring a 23-7 overall mark into the 2012 WNIT, and earned a berth as a result of boasting the top record in Patriot League play at 14-0. American visits Villanova, a team it faced in the 2008 WNIT and fell to 53-52.

American collected an impressive awards haul at the end of the regular season, capturing four of the League’s five major awards. A pair of seniors were honored with Lisa Strack being named Player of the Year and Ebony Edwards Defensive Player of the Year. Matt Corkery was named Coach of the Year by his peers in the League, while sophomore Alexis Dobbs was voted Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the League’s sports information directors.

Never before had a Patriot League team gone a perfect 14-0 in League competition in either of the eight-team eras. That changed Feb. 25, when the Eagles clawed out a 58-54 win in Easton, Pa., over Lafayette to cap off a perfect run through the League regular season. Three teams have now gone unbeaten in League play, as American joined the Holy Cross squads of 1990-91 and 1996-97. Both those Crusader teams went 12-0, as the League had seven members.

American goes on the road to visit Villanova in the first round of the WNIT, and being away from the nation’s capital as not been a problem at all for the Eagles this season. American is 12-1 overall away from home, and 10-1 when playing on its opponent’s home floor in 2011-12.

2012 marks the return to the postseason for Holy Cross, which fell 57-48 at Navy in Saturday’s Patriot League championship game. The Crusaders’ run to the title game included a League Tournament quarterfinal victory at Army, followed by a stunning 15-point victory at No. 1 seed American. Holy Cross is the first Patriot League team to earn a berth to the Women’s Basketball Invitational, and is playing in its first postseason since going to the NCAAs in 2007.

When Holy Cross takes the floor at the Hart Center Thursday night against New Hampshire, it will be seeking the first Patriot League postseason victory since 1991. In the first appearance for any League team in the postseason, the Crusaders handed Maryland an 81-74 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Since then, League teams have fallen in 25 consecutive postseason contests, including 19 in the NCAA Tournament and six in the WNIT.

Should any of the three Patriot League teams advance in the postseason, their next games will be right around the corner. If Navy upends Maryland, the Mids will play either No. 7 seed Louisville or No. 10 Michigan State Monday in College Park in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. The second round of the WNIT is scheduled for March 17-19, and the second round of the WBI is set for March 17-18.

WNIT and WBI First Rounds

The Pavilion; Villanova, Pa. • Thursday, 7 p.m.
Series: Villanova, 1-0
Streak: Villanova, One Win Last Meeting: Villanova, 53-52 (3.19.08)
WNIT Tournament Series: Villanova, 1-0 WNIT Streak: Villanova, One Win
Last WNIT Meeting: Villanova, 53-52 (3.19.08)

AMERICAN Junior second-team All-Patriot League performer Amy Lepley led all scorers with a career-high 24 points to lead fifth-seeded Holy Cross to a stunning 67-52 upset of top-seeded American in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament at Bender Arena March 5 ... The loss ended the Eagles’ program-best 15-game win streak ... American hadn’t lost since a Jan. 2 defeat against George Washington ... All-Rookie Team member Jen Dumiak led American with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals ... Patriot League Player of the Year Lisa Strack was held to just three points on 1-of-14 shooting ... Tori Halvorsen and Sarah Kiely each pitched in six points for the Eagles ... Alexis Dobbs’ layup 1:05 into the game put American on the board first, but the Crusaders scored the next 10 points to take an eight-point lead four minutes in ... The lead ballooned to 22-10 after Bri Malone’s jumper at the 12:28 mark, and the score remained there for nearly the next four minutes until Dumiak scored to make it a 22-12 game with 8:42 remaining in the first half ... The Crusaders scored the next 10 points and eventually took a 32-15 lead into halftime ... Lepley and Ashley Cooper sank back-to-back 3-pointers for Holy Cross to put the Crusaders ahead 44-22 with 14:11 left in the second ... American tried mounting a run with about seven minutes left ... Dobbs and Dumiak combined for consecutive 3-pointers during an 8-2 Eagle run that brought them within 58-39 with 6:45 left, forcing a Holy Cross timeout ... Lepley sank a layup after the stoppage to help the Crusaders re-establish control ... American owns the League’s second-best scoring defense at 53.1 points per game, which is also 21st in the nation ... The Eagles rank 35th in the nation and tops in the League averaging 10.8 steals per game ... Dobbs is second in the League shooting 36.4 percent from deep and averages 2.2 3-pointers per game.

Hart Center; Worcester, Mass. • Thursday, 7 p.m.
Series: Holy Cross, 14-7
Streak: Holy Cross, Two Wins Last Meeting: Holy Cross, 61-50 (12.3.11)
WBI Tournament Series: First Meeting

HOLY CROSS Jade Geif led all scorers with 22 points to lead Navy to a 57-48 victory over Holy Cross in the championship game of the 2012 Patriot League Women’s Basketball Tournament Saturday evening ... Holy Cross was gunning for its 12th League title in its 16th appearance in the finals ... Geif garnered Tournament MVP honors for the second straight season, as well, becoming the third back-to-back MVP in tournament history ... Junior Amy Lepley and sophomore Alex Smith represented Holy Cross on the All-Tournament Team ... Holy Cross was led by Bri Malone’s 13 points, four steals and three assists, while Smith tallied 12 points and Lepley added 11 with eight rebounds ... Holy Cross was bidding to be just the second No. 5 seed to win the League trophy ... The Crusaders scored nine straight points after Navy scored the opening bucket of the game ... Navy whittled the lead down on several occasions, but the Crusaders maintained the advantage and led 25-18 at halftime ... Geif capped off an 8-0 run for Navy in the early stages of the second half with two straight field goals, the latter of which was part of a three-point play, to put the Mids up 28-27 ... Navy built a four-point lead shortly thereafter, but a 5-0 Holy Cross spurt put the Crusaders on top 37-36 with 13 minutes left in the contest ... Navy regained the lead on two free throws from Geif, and the advantage eventually ballooned to 43-37 just beyond the midway point of the second after a 3-pointer by Alix Membreno ... Holy Cross trimmed the deficit to 45-40 with 8:05 left and 49-45 with 4:34 to go ... The Crusaders continued hanging around, with Lepley’s 3-pointer with 2:40 left bringing them within 53-48 ... Geif essentially sealed the game for the Mids on their next possession ... With the shot clock expiring, Geif heaved up an off-balance attempt from beyond the free throw line that rolled around the rim before falling ... Navy’s lead was 55-48 with 2:05 to go ... Holy Cross shot 17 of 50 from the field, going just 6 of 25 in the second half after an 11-of-25 showing in the first 20 minutes ... The Crusaders score the most points of any Patriot League team per game, averaging 63.1 per outing, thanks in part to shooting a League-best 41.5 percent from the field ... Smith ranks 18th in the nation with 5.6 assists per game, while her 36.6 percentage from beyond the arc is a League high ... Smith has 78 3-pointers on the season, placing her in the League’s single-season top 10 ... The Patriot League went 2-4 in meetings with America East teams this season, with the Crusaders’ 61-50 triumph over the Wildcats in December accounting for one ... Navy’s win over Maine was the other.