SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (March 1, 2019) – The Western New England University women's basketball team is set to make the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history on Friday night, when the Golden Bears take on No. 4 ranked Tufts University in first round action at Cousens Gymnasium at 7 p.m.
How They Got Here
Western New England (20-8) captured its first Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) title last Saturday with a 69-55 victory over top-seeded Endicott College in the championship contest in Beverly. The Golden Bears defeated Salve Regina 64-52 in the CCC Tournament quarterfinals before going on the road to claim a 67-59 triumph over the University of New England in the semifinals.
Tufts (25-2) knocked off No. 1 nationally ranked Bowdoin College to earn its third NESCAC title on Sunday. The Jumbos defeated Williams 75-51 in the NESCAC quarterfinals before edging Amherst 47-46 in the semifinals.
NCAA Tournament Experience
Western New England is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in the 43-year history of the women's basketball program.
Tufts has established itself as one of the premier Division III programs in the country with eight consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and 11 overall trips to the Big Dance. The Jumbos, who are hosting regional action for the seventh time in the past eight seasons, have reached the Final Four in four of the last five seasons, including consecutive championship game appearances in 2016 & 2017.
Western New England and Tufts have played five common opponents this season – Springfield, the University of New England, Suffolk, Worcester State and Trinity. The Jumbos went 5-0 against that competition, while the Golden Bears posted a 4-3 record.
Western New England is led by its junior duo of Meghan Orbann (East Hampton, Conn.) and Emily Farrell (New Fairfield, Conn.), who both earned All-CCC first team honors this season. Orbann averages 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while Farrell contributes 13.9 points and 4.2 assists per game.
Tufts also had a pair of All-Conference first team performers in senior Jac Knapp (Westfield, N.J.) and junior Erica DeCandido (North Wales, Pa.), who serve as co-captains for the Jumbos. Knapp paces Tufts with 13.6 points and 3.1 assists per game, while DeCandido is a solid all-around player with 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
Now in her 14th season at the helm of the Western New England women's basketball program, former Temple University captain Nicole Chaszar owns a career record 226-154 (.595).
Tufts head coach Carla Berube, who won the 1995 national championship as a player at UConn under Geno Auriemma, is 381-95 (.800) in 17 seasons leading the Jumbos.
Western New England and Tufts are meeting for the first time since November 20, 2007, when the Jumbos posted a 73-62 victory in Medford during Chaszar's third season with the Golden Bears.
The winner of the Western New England/Tufts contest advances to Saturday's second round to take on the winner of the Haverford/Rosemont matchup, which is being held at Cousens Gym on Friday at 5 p.m.