One national championship.
That is the simple calculus that confronts the University of Antelope Valley men’s and women’s basketball teams as they depart for their NAIA Division II National Championship Tournaments.
The Pioneers qualified for the Nationals a year ago, too.
Both teams had barely checked into their hotels when they were bounced from the national tournament in their first games.
Newcomers to this elite level of basketball bravely declare they’re not just happy to be there.
But the truth is, the men and women Pioneers were a year ago this week.
That’s not the case this week.
“It was a great accomplishment just to get there last year,” said UAV women’s captain Samantha Earl. “We had so many things to feel good about last year, with winning the conference title for the first time.
“This year, our goals have changed. We’re not satisfied with our season so far. We’re not just going there. We’re going there to win the national championship.”
The Pioneer women are seeded third in their eight-team bracket, which itself is an indication of respect and legitimacy not shown them in 2018.
UAV, 25-5 on the season and ranked 11th nationally in the most recent NAIA Coaches Poll, opens with sixth-seed Morningside College, which is based right there in Sioux City, Iowa, the site of the Tournament.
Coach Deon Price is already hard at work keeping his players from deriving satisfaction from the increased respect. He’s convinced his players they’re only as good as their last game.
Or he hopes in this case, their last five games.
He’s doubtless reminded his team of the lack of respect for the California Pacific Conference, whose runner-ups from Embry-Riddle were snubbed by the bracketologists despite 23 wins.
The Pioneer men’s seventh seed has UAV Coach Darwin Cook seething.
Due to a murderous pre-conference schedule, UAV finished the season 16-12. But they finished with tremendous momentum.
“That seed is a slap in the face,” Cook said. “Someone’s going to find out the hard way that we’re not a seventh seed.”
Oregon Tech (24-7), the Cascade Collegiate Conference champions, will get the first opportunity.
The UAV men are headed to Sioux Falls, S.D.
Sioux Falls. Sioux City.
Some cite an accident lawyer as Lancaster’s Mayor and snidely refer to our town at Sue City.
This week it may be more an omen than an insult.