Two GNAC Teams Share Team Of The Week Honors
Sophie Swant scored career highs of 17 and 18 points in the two wins for SFU, while the WOU quartet set the NCAA Division II record in the DMR.
Sophie Swant scored career highs of 17 and 18 points in the two wins for SFU, while the WOU quartet set the NCAA Division II record in the DMR.

Monday, March 13, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Western Oregon men’s track and field finished in a tie for sixth place at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships while Simon Fraser women’s basketball pulled off two upsets in a row to reach the West Regional final to earn both teams selection as the GNAC/Red Lion Co-Teams of the Week.

Simon Fraser has been the Cinderella story of the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball West Regional, defeating the CCAA regular season champion and No. 4 seed UC San Diego before ousting No. 1 seed Alaska Anchorage over the weekend at the Alaska Airlines Center to reach the regional final.

The Clan entered the tournament having lost three of its last five games and missing its leading scorer and rebounder Meg Wilson, but the Clan overcame those obstacles to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.

Simon Fraser opened with a 69-65 win against UC San Diego on Friday to reach the second round for the second time in the last four years. Sophomore Sophie Swant got her first career start with Wilson unable to play due to an injury sustained in the first round of the GNAC Championships. Swant responded by scoring a career-high 17 points while senior Ellen Kett tallied 14 points and 11 assists.

In the regional semifinal, the Clan had to get through Alaska Anchorage which was undefeated against Division II opponents with two wins against Simon Fraser during the regular season. The third time proved to be the charm for Simon Fraser, going on a 25-5 run during the third quarter to upset the No. 2 team in the nation.

“There was no pressure on us,” SFU head coach Bruce Langford said. “Nobody expected us to win, so we got to just go out and have fun in front of a pretty big crowd. As the game went on, we knew that if we could go on a run, the hoop would get a little tighter for [the Seawolves] because there would be pressure on them to perform.”

Just one night after setting her career high in scoring, Swant reset it at 18 points, including 13 of those points coming in the second half. Tayler Drynan only needed 12 minutes of playing time to leave her mark on the game, knocking down all four shot attempts with three coming from beyond the arc for a total of 11 points.

Ryan McCarthy had only lost six games at home and two of them had been to us,” Langford said, “one in his first year and one last year. I said they were an even better team last year than they are this year and we didn’t have Meg when we beat them last year and we didn’t have Meg today.”

After going down hard in the final minutes of the win against UC San Diego, Kett was playing with a large bandage wrapped around her leg, but with her collegiate career on the line, Kett stepped up and scored 14 points with six assists and two steals. Rachel Fradgley added another 10 points for the Clan, making 5 of 8 field goal attempts.

Western Oregon sent four athletes from its men’s track and field program to the NCAA Indoor National Championships at the Division II Festival in Bermingham, Alabama, and all four came back All-Americans after leading the Wolves to the best team finish at the event in GNAC history.

Four of those athletes came back national champions with their names in the NCAA record books after a mere thousandth of a second determined the winner of the distance medley relay, where WOU edged Adams State 9:40.144 to 9:40.145 to set the Division II record in the event. David Ribich took the final leg of the race and closed the gap against Adams State to secure the national title. Adam State’s mark would have been the new record if not for the effort of the quartet of Dustin Nading, AJ Holmberg, Josh Dempsey and Ribich.

"The group that's on our DMR team, we sacrificed December and stayed together and trained in Monmouth,” Ribich said. “By the time it came to this point, we were pretty ready for it. the race panned out a lot different than we thought it would. When we came in with a 9:45, we ran that one time and we only did one DMR all year. We said, each of us can easily take two seconds off our split, and we planned to come out here and run 9:40.

“I knew Oliver’s [Aitchison from Adams State] plan coming into the meet. If he got the baton close with me, I knew he'd try to kick with 300 meters to go, because that's his natural move and he's good at it. So I looked at the scoreboard with 300 meters left and I saw him kind of making a move, so I thought, well I'll make it harder for him to make a move on me, so I decided to go as well."

Nading and Ribich each added another All-American trophy to their collections with top-four finishes in the mile. Both were part of a four-runner pack that led the race with Ribich finishing in a time of 4:06.72 followed shortly by Nading at 4:06.85. Their results earned a combined 11 points for Western Oregon, which finished with 24 in the tie for sixth place.

The other three points came from Dempsey in the 800 meters, where the junior took sixth place with a time of 1:51.20. Dempsey found himself in eighth place after the first 400 meters, but passed Emporia State’s Thomas La Roche on the next 200 and then passed Dejon Devroe from Shorter in the final 200.

Western Oregon will now look to the outdoor track and field season to continue its success. Simon Fraser, meanwhile, plays against California Baptist in the West Regional final at 7 p.m. (Alaska). After already beating the GNAC and CCAA regular season champions, the Clan now has to face the PacWest regional season champion to reach the Elite Eight.