Jerry Hanson, Sports Information Director
The NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships opening round game between Clarke University and Our Lady of the Lake University that didn’t happen last month in Billings, Mont. is going to happen after all, but not on the national stage. Clarke Head Women’s Basketball Coach Courtney Boyd announced today that the two nationally ranked teams will open the 2021 portion of their upcoming 2020-21 season with a January 1 matchup at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.
Clarke and OLLU learned their national tournament opening round opponent on March 11. The NAIA cancelled all scheduled winter championships the following day.
“When the news came out about the national tournament being canceled, it took the team and the staff a few days to wrap our heads around it,” said Boyd. “We got together as a staff shortly after the news came out and started to throw out ideas of how we could get our first round opponent on the schedule for the following season.”
Boyd reached out to Our Lady of the Lake and asked if they wanted to meet halfway to play the game that the teams never got a chance at and OLLU agreed.
“Evangel University was great about us letting use their gym as a halfway point. With OLLU playing Evangel the following day, they will get two Heart matchups in two days with this road trip.”
“Although we will not be traveling to Montana to compete and there will not be a national tournament banner hanging anywhere, it will be a great matchup and a great experience for our team to start off the second half of the season,” added Boyd. “We are looking forward to recreating our tournament berth matchup midseason.”
Clarke was set to make its second straight Division I national tournament berth with a 25-7 mark. OLLU, based in San Antonio, Texas and a member of the Red River Athletic Conference, fashioned a 26-6 overall record this past season. OLLU and Clarke were seeded No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in the eight-team Cramer Bracket.
Clarke advanced to the national championship quarterfinals a year ago. The Pride were ranked No. 20 in the final NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Final Top 25 Poll this past season. The Saints of OLLU ranked No. 13 in the final poll.
A tip-off time has not been determined as of yet.