CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren felt confident Monday afternoon that her women’s basketball team’s 2017-18 season would continue.
Warren’s Panthers were defeated by Drake, 75-63, Sunday in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the second time in as many seasons.
“Going into the (MVC) tournament we were told by the (WNIT) committee that we were certainly being considered and we had to have a good showing,” Warren said earlier Monday. “I think we’ve done that.”
Monday night, Warren’s youthful Panthers received a bid into the WNIT for the fourth time in the last six seasons. UNI (19-13) will host Milwaukee (20-11) at a time to be determined Thursday at the McLeod Center.
With true freshmen Karli Rucker and Nicole Kroeger playing key roles off the bench and nearly the entire roster taking on more responsibility, UNI has closed its season strong. The Panthers own wins in 11 of their final 14 games following a 2-6 non-conference start in which standout guard Ellie Howell was battling through an injury.
With point guard Kennedy Kirkpatrick the only player who will graduate from this season’s roster, Warren looks toward the WNIT as an opportunity for further seasoning. UNI advanced to the third round after a pair of wins in its most recent 2016 WNIT appearance.
“To be able to play in
postseason play with this young team only helps,” Warren said. “That experience is something that you value and it gives you some momentum going into the offseason.”
SOFTBALL: UNI coach Ryan Jacobs says there’s still plenty of competition for at-bats as his team begins Missouri Valley Conference play with a doubleheader Saturday at Bradley.
The Panthers finished 2-2 at the Kansas Invitational last weekend. An eight-run inning led to a win over host Kansas, and Brooke Craig pitched a complete-game shutout against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“We’re still searching for a little bit of a team identity,” Jacobs said. “I think we’re still searching to get people all on the same page and pulling in the right direction.”
UNI will be tested this weekend to limit a powerful Bradley team that has already launched 22 home runs, often relying on its offense through non-conference play.
“Bradley is a team that so far has swung the bats very well,” Jacobs said. “They put up a lot of runs. They’ve beaten some really good teams. ... To be successful against them we’re going to have to limit their opportunities.”