Photo by Matt Reynolds
SIUE celebrates an OVC title
EDWARDSVILLE – SIUE softball, fresh off its first-ever Ohio Valley Conference Championship, will begin play in the 64-team NCAA Division I Tournament at second-seeded Alabama.
The Cougars, 30-21, face off against the Crimson Tide, 45-11, in a 7 p.m. contest Friday, May 16, that will be featured as a national game on ESPN3.com.
South Alabama, 40-12, and USC Upstate, 45-7, join SIUE and Alabama in the four-team, double-elimination Regional to be played at John and Ann Rhoads Softball Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
SIUE head coach Sandy Montgomery said the Cougars are ready for the next level.
"It's a great feeling to be in the tournament and then to get to play at Alabama," Montgomery said. "They have a great tradition down there."
The Cougars may feel right at home against the competition, having played nine teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The list includes LSU, No. 16 seed Minnesota, No. 8 seed Arizona State, No. 7 seed Oklahoma, No. 12 seed Washington, Kansas, UCF, Stetson, and Bradley.
"That's why we played that schedule," said Montgomery. "It will be a challenge, but we are going to give it our all."
SIUE is led by sophomore hurler Haley Chambers, who added three wins this past week for an 18-13 record. Freshman second baseman Allison Smiley and senior shortstop Chelsea Yankolovich lead the offense with .321 batting averages.
The Cougars figure to be the underdog with three opponents which have accumulated 40 or more victories this season.
"No one in the country thinks we can win it, and that's OK. It's good to be the underdog," Montgomery said.