KUTZTOWN, PA – The Winston-Salem State Lady Rams (32-17) will make their return to the post-season this weekend when they take on the top-seeded Kutztown (Pa.) Lady Bears (45-4), Saturday at North Campus Field in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. After earning the bid by virtue of their second straight Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Championship, the Lady Rams will make their second straight trip to the NCAA post-season against the top team in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region.
After a pair of losses in the tournament ended the WSSU season in the first round last season, the Lady Rams return with a much more prepared squad that is looking to advance past the tournament this season. “I think that the team is a bit more prepared this season. We are experienced, we’ve added more speed, we have better hitters and we’re spread out more,” WSSU softball head coach LaTaya Hilliard-Gray said. “I hope that the jitters are out. This season we are heading into the tournament expecting to win rather than just making it to the show.”
Although the Lady Rams will head into this season’s tournament as the defending CIAA champions, the Lady Rams took a different route to the post-season after winning the conference title from the Loser’s bracket of the tournament. The experience not only demonstrated the toughness and will of the 2012 Lady Rams, it gave the team a taste of the level of competition that comes in the post-season. “I think it [the 2012 CIAA Tournament] opened the team’s eyes a bit and they realized that it’s not going to be easy,” Hilliard-Gray added. “Knowing that we had to fight back from expecting to play four games to playing seven, we saw that we needed to be strong and the tournament showed us that.”
The Lady Rams will head into the tournament against the top-seeded Kutztown Lady Bears, the second-ranked team in the nation, who boast a 45-2 overall record. Also in the regional tournament are the Indiana (Pa.) Hawks and the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets. The Lady Rams took a pair of losses to the Yellowjackets earlier this season, but have not faced either Kutztown or Indiana (Pa.).
Though the Lady Rams will face a tough road ahead of them against the top teams in the region, the Lady Rams have prepared for this moment all season long and are poised for a successful outing this weekend. “We’ve always had a disciplined program, but this season, we have a group of seven veterans that will have the opportunity to achieve more than we did last time,” Hilliard-Gray said. “We realize that it’s not going to be easy and we’re pushing to win more games and are pushing to get past the regional tournament.”
The Lady Rams and the Lady Bears are scheduled to open the tournament with a 3:30 p.m. game, Friday afternoon. The 2012 NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament will be held on Friday through Sunday at North Campus Field on the campus of Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Daily admission to the tournament is $7 for adults, $3 for students, and seniors. Children under five (5) years old will be admitted for free. There will be a live video stream of the game as well as a live statistical broadcast available through the Kutztown Athletics website, www.KUBears.com.