2015-16 Women's Basketball
Beavers head to Washington (Mo.) for NCAA Tourney
March 1, 2016
BLUFFTON, Ohio - When the 2015-16 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball tournament bracket was announced Monday afternoon, the Bluffton University women were excited to find out that they will travel to Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., for a first round matchup with Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Beavers take on the Warhawks at 6:30 EST on Friday, March 4. The winner will play against the winner of Washington University and Greenville at 8 PM EST on Saturday, March 5.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for senior citizens and students with ID. The ticket booth will open one hour prior to game time each night. All three games will be broadcast live on the Bear Sports Network.
Bluffton will be taking on a Whitewater team that went 19-7 overall and 8-6 in the always formidable Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for a 4th place finish. The top four teams from the WIAC are all in the NCAA Tournament, including UW-River Falls, the regular season champion at 12-2 and a team that Whitewater defeated 62-59 on January 30. In the only matchup of common opponents, Whitewater downed Manchester University 90-42 in late November. However, the Warhawks enter the NCAA Tourney having lost three straight games, including a first round WIAC matchup with Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Friday will mark the first women's basketball matchup between Whitewater and Bluffton. It is the 15th NCAA Tournament trip for the Warhawks, including their eighth in the past nine years with 2014-15 the lone exception. Whitewater took third place in 2014 after losing to DePauw in the 2013 NCAA Division III title game. Head Coach Keri Carollo is in her 14th year at the helm, amassing a 266-127 mark at Whitewater with three first place WIAC finishes.
It was a season of firsts for the Bluffton University women. The Beavers opened the season with 18 straight victories, shattering the school record for consecutive victories which was six! Bluffton claimed a share of its first-ever HCAC regular season title with Rose-Hulman (16-2) winning a coin toss that set the stage for a first-ever HCAC Tournament championship over those same Engineers. It marked the most HCAC victories in school history as well. Head Coach Chad Shutler broke the record for head coaching victories for the women and he stands at 130 wins heading into the NCAA Tournament. Seniors Taylor Whitaker (Mansfield/Lexington) and Kaitlyn Pennekamp (Hamilton/Ross) crossed the 1,000 point plateau on consecutive games becoming the first-ever classmates to accomplish that feat. They stand 6th and 7th all-time on the career scoring list. The senior class has racked up 69 wins already, shattering the previous best of 51 victories set by the 2014-15 seniors. The 25-2 mark also shattered the previous school record of 18 victories set just one year ago (18-9)!
Host Washington (Mo.) went 20-5 against a brutal gauntlet of a schedule and four of those losses came at the hands of teams that are also in the NCAA Tournament with the lone exception being a final-game setback at Chicago. The Bears are making their 28th overall and 27th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under 30-year head coach Nancy Fahey. Washington holds a spectacular 65-24 record in its previous 27 appearances, including 10 Final Fours and five National Championships. It marks the 19th time in school history the Bears have hosted a first-round game. The Beavers dropped a 71-59 decision to Washington at Ohio Wesleyan on Dec. 30, 2010, in Bluffton's only meeting with the Bears. Head Coach Fahey is 708-129 all-time as head coach of the Bears for an astounding .846 winning percentage. In 2012 she became the first Division III head coach to be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
The final member of the four-team pod at Washington is Greenville College from Greenville, Ill. The Panthers defeated Westminster in the SLIAC finals to secure their first-ever berth in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Greenville stands 20-7 with a 14-4 mark in the conference heading into its first round matchup Friday night. Bluffton and Greenville have never met in women's basketball. Head Coach Roy Mulholland took over at Greenville in 1999 and he has recorded over 400 wins at the helm.
Bluffton will be looking for the first Heartland Conference women's basketball victory in the NCAA Tournament since Transylvania downed Ohio Northern in 2014. Prior to that the last time a Heartland women's basketball team advanced to the second round was in 2008-09 when Transylvania defeated Howard Payne before falling to the Bears of Washington University.