The Oklahoma Wesleyan Lady Eagles are headed into the 24th Annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship with a season record of 9-3 and as the 5th seeded team of the tournament.
The Eagles received an at-large bid to the tournament and will face Eastern Oregon, the 4th seeded team. The EOU Mountaineers are making their 9th appearance, which include five trips in a row. The game will take place Wednesday, March 11 at 9:15 p.m. in Sioux City, IA.
With a roster full of talent, including five senior players, the Eagles are headed into the tournament with strong leadership and team spirit.
“These women are the most decorated senior class in the school’s history,” Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jason Jeschke said. “Although recruited by former Head Coach Mark Molder (currently the Men’s Head Basketball Coach and Athletic Director at OKWU), they have changed the culture of the team. They have gone to three NAIA tournaments in a row and have the most wins of any class. They are role models.”
Starting the season ranked 25th in the nation, the OKWU women proved to be a team with grit and a dangerous three-point shot. On and off the court, the team continues to hold a strong bond.
“Playing at OKWU has taught me that basketball is not always about myself,” senior captain Nichole Tate said. “It has helped me become more selfless and a better teammate. It has helped me become a better leader and has helped my relationship with Jesus Christ grow, and praying for this program has helped me learn how to love others.”
Tate, a four-year veteran of the team, treasures the family-like feel of the program.
“My best memory is all the road trips with our team,” Tate said. “The constant jokes, laughs, and good times that we got to have as a family.”
Fellow senior captain Kelsey Jones agreed the team’s bond was strong this season and has even seen it affect her off the court.
“Playing at OKWU has taught me that being a woman of character both on and off the court has such a life long effect,” Jones said. “It has also helped me hold myself accountable when adversity appears. Playing for the Lady Eagles has allowed me to get a great education and have some of the best memories of my life.”
Coach Jeschke echoed the seniors’ expression of unity, recalling a story about a young woman who was set to ride home with her family from one of their away games.
“I asked one of our players, ‘I thought you were riding home with your family instead of the team?’ and she responded, “I am riding with my family.”
If you plan on joining the Lady Eagles at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, tickets are available at the box office. If you plan to follow from your home, the NAIA has a Pay-Per-View service that can be found at www.naia.org.