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IUP BASKETBALL: Women climb to third in regional rankings

by By MIRZA ZUKIC on March 07, 2013 10:30 AM

With Tuesday’s loss in the quarterfinal round of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference postseason tournament, the IUP women’s basketball team’s quest to return to the top of the conference has stalled.

But since the Crimson Hawks’ last conference title in 2009, the program has made progress, even if the results in the PSAC tournament don’t necessarily show it. That rang true again Wednesday, as IUP appeared at No. 3 in the next-to-last Atlantic Region rankings.

It’s IUP’s highest regional ranking since the 2008-09 season, coach Jeff Dow’s first year and also the last season the Crimson Hawks won the PSAC title.

The regional rankings determine the NCAA Division II tournament field. There are eight regions across the country, with the top eight teams from each qualifying for the regional tournament.

And with only one set of rankings left, the Crimson Hawks have put themselves in prime position to reach the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.

“It’s very flattering to be recognized,” Dow said. “With everything we’ve overcome this year, all the injuries, to go into the second-to-last regional ranking of the year and be ranked third is certainly a testament to the hard work the players have put in, and it’s a testament to them just staying the course.”

Gannon, the regular-season PSAC West champion, remained atop the regional rankings and is in line to host the Atlantic Region tournament from March 15 to 18.

Edinboro, the defending two-time PSAC champion, was No. 2, followed by IUP.

Rounding out the top eight teams are CIAA tournament champion Shaw (N.C.), Glenville State (W.Va.), California, Bloomsburg and Fayetteville State.

“It certainly speaks to the strength of the PSAC West Division, when you consider the top three teams from the West are No. 1 through 3,” Dow said.

After winning the PSAC title in 2008-09, IUP went through a rebuilding 17-10 season the following year, and missed the NCAA tournament for a second straight year after a 19-8 season in 2010-11.

Last year, the Crimson Hawks returned to the big dance, and they’re all but a lock to make it two years in a row.

The NCAA tournament selection show is Sunday at 10 p.m.

“The program is on an upswing, and we certainly have it going in the right direction,” Dow said.

IUP senior Sarah Pastorek, who moved into the No. 8 spot on the school’s all-time scoring list in Tuesday’s loss at Edinboro, was one of several key contributors who missed time with injuries this season. She missed eight games over the final month of the regular season, giving the IUP coaching staff a good look at the future of the program.

“We certainly missed having Sarah Pastorek for eight games, but we also got a good opportunity to see what our team will look like next year,” Dow said. “The future is certainly exciting.”

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