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Women’s basketball earns fifth seed in NCAA Tournament

The+women%27s+basketball+team+celebrates+after+their+name+is+called+at+the+Union+Sports+Annex.
The women's basketball team celebrates after their name is called at the Union Sports Annex.

The women's basketball team celebrates after their name is called at the Union Sports Annex.

Photo by Brian Georgeson

Photo by Brian Georgeson

The women's basketball team celebrates after their name is called at the Union Sports Annex.

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It’s been a historic week for women’s basketball. It started Tuesday, when the Golden Eagles defeated top-seeded DePaul to win their first BIG EAST title on their home court. Six days later Marquette earned its highest seed in program history in the NCAA Tournament.

The women’s basketball team, named a fifth seed, will head to Coral Gables, Florida for a Saturday matchup against No. 15 Quinnipiac. It’s Marquette’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2011, and first under head coach Carolyn Kieger.

“I was shocked,” Kieger said. “I was trying to be a bracketologist all week. I knew we’d be anywhere from a five to a seven and I figured it might be a six.”

“I know my whole team has wanted this since they were little girls,” Natisha Hiedeman said. “Now it’s finally here.”

Unlike the men’s team, the women didn’t have to wonder if they made it into the field or not. Marquette locked up the BIG EAST’s automatic qualifier by winning the BIG EAST Tournament.

“I said to McKayla Yentz, ‘Isn’t this unbelievable that we know we have an automatic bid and we don’t have to be stressed out?'” Kieger said.

The women’s team had to wait twice as long as the men’s, with the school name and logo flashing onto the screen 21 minutes into the selection show. The Golden Eagles were featured among the top programs, with ESPN cutting to a livestream of the team celebrating in the Union Sports Annex.

“I can’t even put it into words,” Hiedeman said. “You just can’t describe the feeling. I’m so excited.”

“It’s definitely a reflection of how hard we worked in the offseason and how much we’ve improved this season,” McKayla Yentz said. “It really makes it all worth it.”

Quinnipiac (27-6) is riding a ten-game win streak. They downed Rider in the MAAC final to claim the conference’s automatic qualifier. The Bobcats have two players who average double-digit points, Adily Martucci and Jen Fay.

“They’re a very good program,” Kieger said. “They’ve been good for years. … We’ve got to be on our A game.”

Marquette’s placement leads to a homecoming for Kieger, who was an assistant coach for the region’s host, Miami, for six years. If the higher seeds both win, it sets up a matchup between Kieger and her former team.

“Chills, honestly,” Kieger said. “When it came up and I saw Coral Gables I knew Miami would be the four seed. My stomach kind of dropped.”

This is Marquette’s 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, with the Golden Eagles holding a 4-9 all-time record. Marquette has never advanced past the second round.

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