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Muhlenberg College

Sunday, March 8, 2009

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women’s basketball: back to new england

On the way back from New England, the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team learned it would have to return there.

Amherst was selected as the host site for the sectional of the NCAA Division III Tournament that includes Muhlenberg, NCAA basketball Brandeis and New York University. The Mules will face Brandeis in one Sweet 16 matchup on Friday, March 13, and Amherst will take on NYU in the other. The winners meet Saturday for the right to go to the “Final Four.” Times will be determined on Monday.

Muhlenberg (26-3) played the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Brunswick, Maine, defeating Westfield State (80-63) and host Bowdoin (58-57) to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. The Mules, ranked 14th by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and 18th by D3hoops.com, have won 12 in a row to tie the school record for wins in a season.

Like Muhlenberg, Brandeis (19-7) is in the Sweet 16 for the first time. The Judges were 7-7 in the University Athletic Association (UAA), a league that accounts for one quarter of the Sweet 16 teams. Brandeis, ranked 25th in the D3hoops.com poll, defeated Western Connecticut State (62-49) and Mount St. Mary (79-52) at home in the first two rounds of the NCAAs.

Muhlenberg and Brandeis have one opponent in common: Bowdoin. The Judges defeated Bowdoin, 71-44, in November. The two schools have one other connection: Brighid Courtney, a freshman center for Brandeis, is the younger sister of former Mule All-American Meghan Courtney.

Host Amherst (27-2) is, like Bowdoin, a member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference. In fact, the eighth-ranked Lord Jeffs’ only two losses are to Bowdoin, by a total of five points. Amherst is in the NCAAs for only the second time; last year, it reached the Round of 16 before losing.

NYU (23-4) is by far the veteran of this group, with 15 NCAA appearances and three trips to the “Final Four,” including a national championship in 1997. The Violets, who are ranked as high as 14th, finished 10-4 in the UAA and enter the sectionals with a six-game winning streak.

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