The Wittenberg women’s basketball team will play Marietta in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament on Friday on the campus of Hope College in Holland, Mich.
The Tigers gathered to eat pizza and watch the selection show on NCAA.com in the in the President’s Suite of The Steemer on Monday. After sitting through about half of the bracket reveal, the Wittenberg name popped up, and the players cheered.
“It’s super exciting,” said Kristie Kalis, the MVP of the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament, as she stood next to teammates Abigail Yunker and Delaney Williams after the selection show. “We’re fifth-year seniors so we’ve been here for five years and the last time we won was in 2015. It makes us so happy because all the hard work we’ve put in is paying off.”
This was just the type of moment first-year coach Tamika Jeter-Williams, who had watched the selection show numerous times as a player and assistant coach but never as a head coach, wanted for her players.
“You just you sit back and you want to get them to experience this,” she said. “When the whistle goes off and you beat DePauw, you want them to experience that. When the whistle blows and you won the NCAC and you’re peaking when you want to peak, you want them to grab that trophy and their parents to hug them.”
Wittenberg (18-7) or Marietta (21-5) will play No. 2 Hope (26-1) or La Roche (20-5) in the second round Saturday.
Wittenberg won the North Coast Athletic Conference championship by beating No. 10 DePauw on Friday and Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday, earning the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid. DePauw made the tournament as an at-large team and will play Illinois Wesleyan in the first round on the campus of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Wittenberg will play in the NCAA tournament for the 10th time and the first time since 2015 when it beat Transylvania in the first round before losing to Washington University of St. Louis.
Marietta finished third in the Ohio Athletic Conference and lost 68-64 to Mount Union in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. This will be Marietta’s second NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2018.
Wittenberg Athletic Director Brian Agler said he anticipated the program having this type of success under Jeter-Williams but maybe not so soon. The Tigers finished November with a 2-4 record and lost 83-57 to DePauw in December and 82-58 to Ohio Wesleyan in January. Now they take a 10-game winning streak into the NCAA tournament.
“What I reflected on this weekend was this senior class had four coaches in probably less than two years,” Agler said, “and they’ve shown resiliency and gave one more coach one more chance and put their trust in her.”