BY MAGGIE MEISINGER
PHOTOS BY BRIANNA TUREK
VIDEO BY ANNA LICHTI AND GARRETT SHAFER
The University of Saint Francis claimed a victory in the first round of the 2014 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship at the Tyson Events Center this afternoon. The Cougars, led by Gary Andrews, head coach, will advance to the second round of the championship on Friday after defeating the Ashford University Saints 57-37. Saint Francis is no stranger to the National Championship; this year marks their 16th appearance. The team has a solid foundation for the championship this year, going undefeated during regular season play, and boasting a 33-0 overall record. Meanwhile, Ashford, led by Head Coach Kelly Kruger, went 12-20 this season overall and made their first appearance in the championship. The Cougars led the game by nine points, heading into the locker rooms 26-17 at the half. Sophomore forward Brooke Ridley led her team with 12 points in the first half while senior guards Skylarr Shurn and Jennelle Wilson each had seven points. The three of them put up all points scored by the Cougars in the first half. Sophomore forward Elizabeth Nardi put up eight points in the first half for the Saints. Saint Francis came out of half time stronger, stretching their lead to 20 points. Shurn continued to carry her team, closing the game with 17 points while teammate Ridley followed close behind with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Nardi too led her team with 14 points. Freshman Sarah Vozel led the Saints with five rebounds and two assists. Despite the defeat, Kruger was proud of his girls and pleased that they made it this far. “I’m proud of our kids, I thought we defended really well,” Kruger said. “I thought they executed things as well as they could, Saint Francis is really good and I thought our kids really hung in there.” Andrews was cautiously happy with the win, knowing there is a lot of playtime left. “I’m just happy with the win,” Andrews said. “I think Ashford had a good game plan and our kids played good enough defense and hit enough shots to move on and hopefully we have some more good game. We are a second-half team and when you get here you just have to find a way to win.” Saint Francis will go on to play Tennessee Wesleyan or Siena Heights Friday morning at 10:15.