AU celebrates women’s basketball NCAA tournament bid
The AU women’s basketball team filed onto the steps in front of Mary Graydon center on Mar. 18 to the cheers of the spirit team and chants from students and faculty who enthusiastically celebrated its record-breaking season.
Led by Patriot League Tournament MVP senior guard Jen Dumiak, the Eagles earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history when they defeated Lehigh University on March 14. AU will play No. 3 seeded University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa on March 20 at 2:30 p.m.
“I’m just excited at the opportunity to play and not have our season end,” Dumiak said. “It’s a great opportunity, they’re a great team, we’re going to have to compete and make little mistakes to be able to win the game, but it’s a challenge for us, and it’s something new, so we’re excited.”
Sophomores Nick Papadis and Dan Lagnado, student interns for AU Athletic Communications, traveled on plane with the team yesterday and will be commentating a live broadcast from the game which can be viewed online at aueagles.com. The student bus trip to Iowa City was cancelled due to lack of participation, according to AU Athletics.
“I always enjoy being around the team, but this experience is even more amazing from both a basketball and professional standpoint,” Papadis said. “I am so excited to receive my NCAA credential as well as take part in press conferences that will include people from ESPN and other major news sources.”
Athena Argyropoulos, AU’s associate director of athletics, introduced the team to the fans and media at the send-off party by recognizing the accomplishments of Dumiak, Patriot League Coach of the Year Megan Gebbia and All-Patriot League Tournament team members Shaquilla Curtis and Michelle Holmes.
University President Neil Kerwin, who also attended the selection show on Monday night, followed Argyropoulos by extending his own congratulations to the team. He emphasized the importance of their academic accomplishments as well as their athletic achievements, and he expressed his pride in their success.
“They’re taking the discipline that brought them here, the teamwork that brought them here, the brains and the talent, and they’re going to show Iowa what American University can do,” Kerwin said. “I want everyone here to understand just how proud we are of these women.”
Anchored by strong senior leadership, the Eagles hope to add to the record books by advancing to the second round of the tournament by defeating Iowa.
“It would be sweet to make it to the next round, but we know it is going to take a lot to get there,” Holmes said. “We already made history just going there and seeing what the atmosphere is like is exciting.”
Head coach Megan Gebbia will be attending the tournament for the 10th time in her coaching career, but she knows the experience will be brand new to her players. In order to perform well in their first game, the Eagles will be relying on their veteran players to guide them as they take on Hawkeyes.
“I think the biggest thing that they [the seniors] can do is go out there and show them how to compete at this level because it is a different level, and I don’t know if our kids even realize that going into this that yeah, you’re playing a really good team, you’re playing them on their home floor, and this game means something to everybody because everybody wants to advance,” Gebbia said.
The Eagles, who hold a 24-8 record this season, played nationally ranked opponents such as University of Maryland and George Washington University earlier this fall, and Dumiak believes that the challenging non-conference games gave the team a taste of the kind of completion they will face in the NCAA tournament.
“I know GW’s a sixth seed and Maryland’s obviously the No.1 seed, but knowing that we can play with those teams gives us the confidence to know that we can compete with a three seed,” Dumiak said.
Less than 20 minutes after the send-off celebration began, the 12 members of the Patriot League Championship team filed on to the AU bus to travel to the airport and fly to Iowa City for the first round of the Division I NCAA Championship.
“It’s an experience that they will all remember for a lifetime,” Gebbia said.