After a tremendous season of hard work and success, the Lady Eagles made it to the NCCAA DII Women’s Basketball National Tournament in Joplin, Missouri. While finishing second in the South Regional tournament, their 11-game winning streak secured the at-large bid, ranking them as 2nd seed for Nationals.
As the group returned to campus, Eagles fans gathered on Varsity Terrace to welcome back the national champions. This was the ninth consecutive year that they competed in Nationals, finally earning the title. “This year, the fire and relentless approach to games and practice [were] at another level. This team has helped set the bar high for future teams,” said Jared Sellars, head coach since 2011.
Coach Sellars’s approach to training helped the team thrive on and off the court. His tireless dedication paid off in the 2022 National tournament. His commitment earned him the Coach of the Year award at the South Regionals and Nationals.“Coach Sellars has the same goal we have, and he is constantly reminding us that we’ve got to take it one game at a time to get there,” said Kinsey Tindol (Jr., WA). “He is a very supportive and encouraging coach and has been a huge asset to our success.”
The excitement built as the team faced Trinity Bible College (ND) in their first match-up. After securing the win, they advanced to the semi-finals to face Ozark Christian College (MO) and defeated them as well. They finished Nationals by winning the Championship against Arlington Baptist University (TX), making this year’s team the first one to win the national title.
Lauran Alvarez (FL), one of two seniors on the team, has been playing since her freshman year. Not only was she integral to winning Nationals, but she was also the first Lady Eagle to win National Player of the Year. She went on to also receive the title of Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Her strategy? “Work hard and be mentally tough regardless of the circumstances. No matter the score, never give up,” she said.
Lauran also mentioned one of the biggest factors for her team’s achievements. “I think unity has been a major component in the success of our team,” she said. “This is the closest team that I have ever been a part of, and I will cherish the moments that we have shared together.”
“We are a close-knit family who enjoys laughter and playing the sport we all love together,” said Carissa Akin (Jr., IL), who has also been playing since her freshman year. “Our goal to make it to the National Tournament was achieved [again] this season, and it has been a lot of fun being part of something bigger than just basketball here.”
Coach Sellars’s mentality of doing everything with excellence was another key factor to his team’s success. “Our theme is ‘ALL IN.’ We want our players to be all-in, all the time. ‘ALL IN’ with our walk with the Lord, with our academics, with our relationships, and with our basketball,” said Coach Sellars. “I am thankful for the opportunity to coach an incredible group of people. [They are] great and have made this a very special year. [I’m] thankful to be a small part of their lives.”
Nationals concluded with the Lady Eagles representing Christ during each game and revealing their love for their sport. “I can’t say enough about how proud I am of this team. They are a picture of hard work, dedication, determination, focus, and drive,” said Heather Sellars, assistant coach. “It takes mental toughness to get through this week, and our girls showed they have what it takes to get the job done.”