The University of Alaska Anchorage’s women’s basketball team is playing in the program’s first-ever NCAA Division II national championship game on Monday, where the Seawolves will face off against Lubbock Christian in Indianapolis.
Coach Ryan McCarthy took the reins of the UAA women’s basketball program in 2012, and the team has seen consistent improvement every season since.
But, McCarthy said this is the first year he and his team talked about winning a national championship from day one.
“Maybe that’s me being young and naive, I never thought, ‘Man I really think we’re the best team in the country,’” he said. “But this year, I really believed it, and I think more importantly, the girls that were playing believed it, and I think they believe that right now.”
The Seawolves have 38 wins – an NCAA Division II record – and 2 losses this season.
Despite the record, McCarthy said all the pressure is on their opponent — undefeated Lubbock Christian.
“They’re the team that’s undefeated. Everyone says they’re number one in the nation and so if they lose, people are gonna ask them what happened. If we lose, no one is gonna ask us that question, because they’re the number one team — it would be an upset if we win,” McCarthy said. “So, we weren’t even number one in our own region. I’m excited, I think we get to be loose, and come in there and play our game.”
The players agree with that sentiment.
Junior forward Alysha Devine, a Wasilla High School graduate, said after 40 games, the jitters are gone and it comes down to preparation.
“Coach told us, you know, ‘You’re not nervous if you’re prepared.’ And I really think that we are prepared and we are preparing within the next few days, too, it’ll just keep getting us more confidence and we’re in a great place right now, and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “And I’m sure the nerves will get there before the game, but all the preparation will pay off.”
And with 11 days between games, which is unusual in a collegiate basketball season, the Seawolves have plenty of time to rest and prepare.
Senior guard Jenna Buchanan, a Galena High School grad, said it hasn’t quite sunk yet in that she and her teammates will be playing in the biggest game of their career in less than a week.
“You know, I think it’s exciting. I haven’t really given much thought how big a stage it is, really. I think I’ll do that once we get there. But, I’m just excited to play,” she said. “I was counting the sleeps till our game last night, and so I’m just ready to go.”
And, with only a few sleeps left to go before the big game, Coach McCarthy said the countdown has begun – not just for the season, but for the college careers of Jenna Buchanan and the team’s other seniors.
“After this, it’s done, it’s over, that’s the way America works,” he said. “No more playing college basketball, but what a great way to end it on the grandest stage of them all.”
The UAA women’s basketball team will play against Lubbock Christian for the NCAA Division II National Championship in Indianapolis at 11 a.m. Alaska time on Monday.
The game will be aired live on the CBS Sports Network – which is only available in Alaska on an expanded Dish Network package or Direct TV.