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Taking the tournament in stride

Head coach of Northwestern, Chris Yaw, talks to his players during a time out in the game against Jamestown. Yaw, as a first-year head coach, has lead Northwestern, the reigning National Champions, to the quarterfinals. PHOTO: Caitlin Hein

In March of 2011, Chris Yaw understood the difficult challenge to come when he became head coach for the two-time defending national champion Northwestern Red Raiders.

Stepping into the role as head coach, Yaw had a lot to learn from the previous coach Earl Woudstra, a two-time coach of the year, who led the team to the national titles in 2010 and 2011. After the last year’s national tournament, Woudstra retired from head coach after 17 years. On Mar. 6 of this year, Woudstra was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame.

Yaw was a top assistant under Woudstra for seven years, so the decision to appoint him as head coach was no surprise. The returning players knew and respected Yaw, while he knew their habits and tendencies on the court. Before Yaw replaced Woudstra, Barry Brandt, athletic director at Northwestern, expressed his confidence in him.

“Chris is a man of great faith, knowledge, passion, and integrity, and he will be an outstanding leader and mentor for all the young women who pass through this program,” Brandt said.  “I am supremely confident that this program is in very good hands with Chris Yaw at the helm.”

In Yaw’s first season leading Northwestern, he compiled a record of 23-7 in the regular season, earned a No. 2 seed in the national tournament and has coached his team to the quarterfinals. With back-to-back titles, Yaw does not feel the pressure to join the elite teams who have three consecutive national titles.

“We’ve talked as a team a little bit about this off and on throughout the season and even at the end here,” Yaw said.  “You know, those teams are special teams but it’s those teams. This team has its own character.”

He feels his team has their own journey and wants his players to focus their attention on the present in all aspects: physically, mentally and emotionally.

Whether or not the Raiders secure the three-peat, Yaw finds more importance in values and strong character.

“My greatest goal for the program is that it continues to model and uphold the mission of Northwestern, creating women of great character who would be courageous and intentional about being women of faith,” Yaw said.

In this year’s national tournament, the Red Raiders beat Indiana Southeast in the first round 76-56 and won against Jamestown 80-58 in the second round. They will play Indiana Wesleyan in the first quarterfinal game on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Contributed to by Becca Dickinson and Colton Spearman

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