The Hillsdale College Chargers punched their ticket to the big dance with a G-MAC tournament victory last weekend, defeating three of the top four teams in the conference.
Victories over Ursuline College, Cedarville University, and the University of Findlay earned Hillsdale an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Women’s College Basketball Championship, which begins this weekend.
The Chargers draw the top team in the Midwest Regional right off the bat, facing one of the tournament’s eight No. 1 seeds, Ashland University, on Friday evening. Tip off is at 5 p.m. in Ashland, Ohio.
“We’re preparing like we do against any other team,” first-year head coach Matt Fritsche said.
Fritsche, who coached with Creighton University four four years before coming to Hillsdale, has had to game plan for perennial powerhouse University of Connecticut in the Division I women’s basketball national tournament in the past.
Ashland (31 – 0, 20 – 0 GLIAC) enters Friday’s matchup riding a 68-game win streak, the sixth-longest in NCAA Division II women’s basketball history. The Eagles also begin the weekend as the defending champions of the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament.
A tall task for the Chargers, indeed.
Hillsdale (19 – 10, 14 – 8 G-MAC), also enters the field of 64 hot, having won 12 of 17 since the New Year and six of its last seven.
While Fritsche didn’t point to any glaring weaknesses for Ashland, he said his team could create some matchup problems for the Eagles.
“I think they’re going to have a hard time guarding our point guards,” Fritsche said. They could potentially have a hard time guarding our forwards. And then, [senior center Allie] Dittmer’s a load.”
And of course, the Chargers enter the tournament as the No. 2 team by rebounding margin in all of NCAA Division II, out-rebounding opponents by an average of 12.6 rebounds per game.
Hillsdale, a No. 8 seed in the Midwest Regional, has four players who average between 12.4 and 14.1 points per game in junior forward Makenna Ott, Dittmer, junior forward Brittany Gray, and junior guard Allie Dewire.
Gray won the G-MAC’s final Player of the Week award last week for her efforts in the conference tournament. She nailed six three-pointers in the championship game against Findlay en route to a team-high 22 points.
Fritsche said that if Gray and Ott, the team’s two leading three-point shooters, catch fire, the Chargers could make for an even tougher opponent for Ashland.
“We’re appreciative of our last week and we’re confident in how we play,” Fritsche said. “We’re going to try to be creative with some game-plan stuff and throw some different things at them and see what sticks.”