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Dragons women earn spot in NCAA Division II Central Region tournament

Minnesota State Moorhead head coach Karla Nelson led her team to the NCAA Division II women's basketball tournament for a second consecutive season. Forum file photo

MOORHEAD—Minnesota State Moorhead is headed back to Sioux Falls, S.D., for more postseason play. The Dragons earned the No. 7 seed in the Central Region for the NCAA Division II women's basketball tournament.

Dragons head coach Karla Nelson was relieved when her team was announced as one of the 64-team field Sunday night.

"It's been a long day," Nelson said. "After all the games (Saturday), I was very nervous. Every team we thought needed to win, lost. It was crazy."

Augustana earned the No. 1 seed in the Central, winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament. The Vikings (27-3) also shared the overall NSIC regular-season crown with MSUM and Northern State.

Augustana is the host team for the Central Region. MSUM (25-3) plays No. 2 seed Central Missouri (24-3) on Friday at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls. Game time is yet to be determined.

The Dragons are making their second consecutive appearance in the Division II tournament.

"It shows that we've played pretty consistent basketball over the last couple years," Nelson said. "For this group, now it's to take that next step and be a contender and not just a participant."

The Dragons also played Central Missouri in the first round of the Division II tournament last season with the Jennies earning a 56-45 victory.

"We're familiar with each other," Nelson said. "They have a lot of experience and are a very talented group."

The Dragons' last game was in Sioux Falls at the Sanford Pentagon last week, losing to the University of Sioux Falls in the NSIC tournament quarterfinals. MSUM played the waiting game from there. The top seeds were knocked off in both the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Great American Conference tournaments, the other two conferences in the Central Region. That gave Lindenwood and Arkansas Tech automatic bids.

Lindenwood was the No. 9 seed in the MIAA and Arkansas Tech was rated behind the Dragons in the final region rankings.

The Dragons had a 16-game winning streak snapped with a home loss against Minnesota-Duluth on the final game of the regular season. MSUM won its first game in the NSIC tournament before losing in the quarterfinals.

No. 4-seeded Arkansas Tech (26-3) plays No. 5 seed Northern State (25-5) in the first round of the Central Region. Augustana plays No. 8 seed Lindenwood (20-12). No. 3 seed Southwestern Oklahoma State (26-4) plays No. 6 seed Fort Hays State (25-6) on MSUM's side of the bracket.

The 64-team tournament is divided into eight regions. There are 24 automatic qualifiers and 40 at-large teams. The Dragons earned an at-large berth. Augustana earned the automatic bid from the NSIC by winning the conference tournament.

"We are going to have to play a lot better than we have the last couple weeks of the season," Nelson said. "We know that. I feel like the last couple days of practice have been good. We've got some good work in here the last couple days."


What: NCAA Division II Central Region tournament

Who: Minnesota State Moorhead vs. Central Missouri

When: Friday, time to be determined

Where: Sioux Falls, S.D.

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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