Four GNAC Teams Go Dancing, Will Face One Another
Central Washington, led by Samantha Bowman (No. 23) won the GNAC Championships and claimed the No. 2 seed in the NCAA West Regional. Photo by Ron Smith.
Central Washington, led by Samantha Bowman (No. 23) won the GNAC Championships and claimed the No. 2 seed in the NCAA West Regional. Photo by Ron Smith.
2022 NCAA Women's Basketball West Regional Bracket
2022 NCAA Women's Basketball West Regional Bracket

Sunday, March 6, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – The GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships provided four days of thrilling finishes and resume-boosting wins. But if you thought the GNAC tournament was over, think again.

The conference will send four teams – Central Washington, Western Washington, Alaska Anchorage and Northwest Nazarene – to the NCAA West Regionals in Hayward, California, and will have two inter-conference match-ups in the first round with the guarantee of another in the second round. The GNAC accounted for half of the eight schools to receive bids, with the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) and Pacific West Conference sending two schools apiece.

The GNAC portion of the West Regional bracket features No. 2 Central Washington against No. 7 Northwest Nazarene and No. 3 Western Washington against No. 6 Alaska Anchorage. The other half of the bracket features No. 1 seed and host Cal State East Bay against No. 8 Academy of Art and No. 4 Cal State San Marcos against No. 5 Azusa Pacific.

Central Washington (23-7), the GNAC champions, leads the way as the No. 2 seed in the West Regional. The Wildcats will be led by junior center Samantha Bowman, who took home tournament MVP honors after averaging 14.7 points and 17.3 rebounds over three games. Bowman finished just shy of a triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in CWU’s semifinal win over Alaska Anchorage before setting a GNAC Championships record with 23 rebounds in the finals win over Western Washington.

Bowman also leads Division II with 15.6 rebounds per game and 24 double-doubles. She’s joined in the Wildcats line-up by the GNAC’s top two regular season scorers in senior guard Kizzah Maltezo (18.9 points per game) and senior forward and GNAC Player of the Year Kassidy Malcolm (18.1), who also grabbed 6.6 rebounds per contest and led the conference with an .850 free-throw percentage.

The Wildcats will face GNAC foe Northwest Nazarene (18-9) in the first round after the Nighthawks received the No. 7 seed. The Nighthawks’ season was full of signature victories, including a win over Central Washington and a pair of wins over Western Washington, but NNU had an early exit from the GNAC Championships, losing in the quarterfinals to Montana State Billings.

Northwest Nazarene has a pair of second-team All-GNAC contributors. Sophomore forward Nyalam Thabach averages 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while senior forward Erin Jenkins contributed 11 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent from the field. Teagan Thurman had a strong freshman season at 12.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, while guards Jordan Pinson, Ashlynn Sylve and Emma Clark all rank in the league’s top ten in steals.

Regular-season champion Western Washington (20-5) received the No. 3 seed in the regional after falling in the GNAC Championships title game to Central Washington. The Vikings have several conference special award winners in Defensive Player of the Year Avery Dykstra, Freshman of the Year Riley Dykstra and five-time GNAC Coach of the Year Carmen Dolfo. Senior Emma Duff earned first-team All-GNAC honors after averaging 15.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, both team-highs.

Although WWU lost the season series to Central, the Vikings have important head-to-head wins over Cal State San Marcos and Azusa Pacific as well as a season sweep of their upcoming first round opponents.

That would be the Seawolves of Alaska Anchorage, who received the No. 6 seed after a semifinal GNAC Championships loss to eventual champion Central Washington. The Seawolves (20-6) beat the Wildcats twice during the regular season and also went 2-0 against Northwest Nazarene, but couldn’t solve Western Washington in a pair of losses to the Vikings.

Forward Tennae Voliva anchors UAA, earning first-team all-GNAC status after averaging 12.7 points and seven rebounds per game. Voliva performed well in the tournament loss to CWU with 20 points, six rebounds and an 8-for-8 night from the free-throw line.

All West Regional games will take place on the campus of Cal State East Bay in Hayward, California. All first-round match-ups will be Friday, Mar. 11 with times TBD. The regional semifinals will be Saturday, Mar. 13 starting at 5 p.m. and the regional final will be Monday, Mar. 15 at 7 p.m.