Brandeis women earn NCAA bid, will host for first time

WALTHAM, Mass. - For the fourth straight year, the Brandeis University women's basketball team has earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament, and for the first time, the Judges will serve as host for the first two rounds. With a record of 17-7, 7-7 in the University Athletic Association (UAA), Brandeis will host Western Connecticut State University with a record of 21-5, 12-2 in the Little East Conference (LEC) in the first round on Friday, March 6, at 7 p.m.

For the third year in a row, Brandeis is one of four UAA teams to make the tournament, all of which earned the right to host in the first round. Along with the Washington University, the conference champions, and at-large selections in the University of Rochester and New York University, no conference has more teams in the Big Dance. Overall, the Judges posted a 6-5 record against teams in the NCAA tournament field of 63, winning non-conference contests against Babson, Bowdoin, Emmanuel, Tufts and Widener, splitting with Rochester and falling twice to Washington Univ. and NYU. The Judges men have also earned an at-large berth to the Big Dance, making Brandeis one of 15 schools with both teams still alive. With their fourth-straight bid, the women are the first Brandeis squad to reach four-straight NCAA tournaments since the 1996-99 baseball teams.

Brandeis is paced by junior guard Jessica Chapin of Mendon, N.Y., a second-team All-UAA selection last year. Chapin leads the Judges in scoring (14.1 ppg, 3rd in the UAA), rebounding (6.7 rpg, 6th), assists (3.2 apg, 6th) and steals (3.0 spg, 2nd), making her one of three players in the UAA to rank in the top 10 in all four categories. Senior Lauren Orlando of Peabody, Mass., is the squad's second-leading scorer at 9.5 points per game. The Judges finished the regular-season tops in the UAA in free-throw shooting (74.0%) and 3-pointers per game (5.8 3pg).

Western Connecticut State University finished the regular season in second place in the Little East, falling to eventual champion Southern Maine in the conference tournament semifinals. With two other LEC teams in the tournament, WCSU is 3-4 against other NCAA qualifiers, having dropped two to Eastern Connecticut and gone 1-2 against Southern Maine. Their non-league tournament foes came in the Colonials' first trip to Waltham this season on Nov. 22-23, when they went 1-1 at the Brandeis Tip-Off Tournament, falling to Bowdoin and defeating Widener in the consolation game.

The Colonials feature a balanced attack, with seven different players having earned at least 10 starts this season and five who average between 7.8 and 9.5 points per game. Senior forward Stacey Roberts of Windham, Conn., leads the WCSU scoring attack at 9.5 points per game, while sophomore center Melissa Teel of Hamden, Conn., averages 7.8 points, a team-leading 7.5 rebounds per game, fourth-best in the LEC, and a league-best 2.9 blocked shots per game, 13th-best in Division III. As a team, Western Connecticut leads the LEC in blocked shots (5.9 bpg), assists (15.2 apg) and 3-pointers per game (7.0 3pg), ranking second in the league and among the top 20 in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (33.0%).

The other game on Friday evening will start at 5 p.m. and pit Brockport State University (19-9), champions of the State University of New York Athletic Conference and Mount St. Mary's (N.Y.) College (23-4), winners of the Skyline Conference. Winners of the first-round games will face off on Saturday, March 7, at 5 p.m. Ticket policies will be announced later.

For more information on Brandeis women's basketball, please visit our web site at http://www.brandeisjudges.com/sports/winter/whoops.

For the entire NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament bracket, please visit http://www.ncaa.com/brackets/2009/ncaa_bracket_DIII_basketball_women.html.