Wednesday, January 16, 2013
By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor
FERRUM -- Ferrum College's 12th victory Sunday, a 31-point rout of USA South Athletic Conference rival Greensboro (N.C.) College, has vaulted the Panthers into the national spotlight.
A day after that triumph, its 13th in a row at William P. Swartz Gymnasium, Ferrum made its debut in the NCAA Division III national rankings -- the Panthers are No. 21 in this week's d3hoops.com women's Top 25.
On Tuesday, the Panthers broke into the USA Today/ Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Top 25 poll at No. 22.
Ferrum (12-0), the reigning USA South Athletic Conference champion, is a season removed from competing in the NCAA Division III tournament for only the second time in program history.
"It is nice to be nationally ranked and to think that other coaches think that we belong in the conversation with the better teams in the country is an honor,' Panthers head coach Bryan Harvey said in an email Tuesday.
The attention gained by Ferrum comes during a pivotal stretch of conference games starting with tonight's trip to Maryville (Tenn.) College and concluding this weekend with back-to-back home games against Christopher Newport University (CNU) and North Carolina Wesleyan College.
Ferrum, Maryville and CNU are tied for first place in the league standings at 6-0 and N.C. Wesleyan is next at 4-2.
Ferrum, Maryville and CNU are a combined 37-1.
Maryville is in its first year of play in the USA South in all sports except football and the Scots, who qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament last year, were picked second behind Ferrum in the preseason league coaches' poll.
"More important than being ranked though is our match-ups this week with Maryville, CNU and N.C. Wesleyan,' Harvey said. "As much of an honor as it is (to be ranked nationally), and I'm happy for our kids, it will be short-lived if we don't stay humble, focused and driven.'
Maryville (12-1) received 14 votes in this week's d3hoops.com poll and CNU (13-0) is ranked No. 13.
"We need to have a good week of preparation,' Harvey said. "This is going to be a very challenging week, and we are going to have to play very well if we want to compete for a conference championship.
The Panthers have two wins over CNU in their current home winning streak: the first by 24 points, 82-58, the second by 26, 82-66, in the championship game of last year's USA South postseason tournament.
"I just hope we continue to work and get better because that's what it's going to take us to reach our goals,' Harvey said. "We set a lot of goals at the beginning of the season. Being nationally ranked was not one of them. Winning a conference championship was definitely a goal.'
A win tonight makes Ferrum 3-0 this season against teams that played in the NCAA tournament last year. In back-to-back games in late December, the Panthers bested Louisiana College and Centre (Ky.) College, which reached the Sweet 16.
This week's poll is the seventh conducted by d3hoops.com during the regular season.
A 25-member panel comprised of coaches, sports information directors and media representatives from across the country vote in the poll.
DePauw (Ind.) University (15-0) is ranked No. 1; it received 23 of the 25 available first-place votes, and Calvin (Mich.) College is second and garnered the other two first-place votes.
DePauw earned 623 points to Calvin's 598.
Washington (Mo.) University-St. Louis (12-2), the team that defeated Ferrum in last year's NCAA tournament, is seventh.
Ferrum, which polled 118 points, and CNU are two of eight undefeated teams in the Top 25.
The Panthers are ranked two spots ahead of CNU in the USA Today/WBCA Top 25.
DePauw and Calvin are the top two teams in the poll. They garnered 200 and 192 points respectively and DePauw received all eight first-place votes.
Ferrum earned 31 points.
Ferrum's squad features four double-figure scorers and a fifth who averages a shade fewer than 10 points a game: Jacole Hairston (15.3), Tesla Akers (14.3), Katy Kipps (12.0), Shea Smith (Franklin County, 10.7) and Kylene Culler (9.8).
TIP-INS: This is CNU's final year of play in the USA South in all sports except football, and Saturday's contest at Ferrum is the only time the two rivals will meet during the regular season.
It remains to be seen whether the teams will continue to play on a regular basis when the Captains move to the Capital Athletic Conference.
"I hope (Saturday's game) is not the last time we play CNU in the regular season. We don't have anything lined up at this point,' Harvey said.
"It has been a good rivalry and we would love to continue to compete against them. They have been and will continue to be a great program and we definitely like to compete against the best to see exactly where we are as a program,' Harvey said.