In each program’s second season of existence, the Villa Maria College men’s basketball and women’s basketball programs have qualified for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II National Tournament to be held next week in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
The men’s team was announced as the tournament’s eighth-seed during a live stream selection show on Tuesday evening. They will take on the ninth-seeded Andrews University Cardinals in the tournament’s opening round on Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. on the campus of Penn State Fayette. The women’s team, who was selected as the tournament’s sixth-seed, will take on Penn State University Athletic Conference champion, third-seeded Penn State Brandywine, on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m.
“This is a huge step for our programs and our College as a whole,” Silveri said after receiving the bid on Tuesday afternoon. “Our players and coaches have worked very hard to earn this honor in just the program’s second year.”
The Vikings, who finished the regular season 16-13, and 8-3 in USCAA II conference games, finished eighth in the final coaches poll and made a nine win improvement from last year’s inaugural season. Led by head coach Don Silveri, the Vikings rank sixth nationally in points per game (88.0), fourth in assists per game (18.7) and second in field goal percentage (48.6). The Vikings’ resume consists of six wins over top-20 teams.
Villa is led by freshman forward Eric Waters (Buffalo, NY/Oracle Charter) who averages 17.1 points per game and has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season. He has eclipsed the 20-point mark nine times and scored a season-high 31 against Jamestown Community College on January 15th.
Sophomore DeJaun Owens (Buffalo, NY/Tapestry Charter) is scoring 14.9 points and leads the team with 62 made threes. Waters’ former high school teammate and fellow freshman Gerald Bibbs (Buffalo, NY/Oracle Charter) is scoring 14.8 points and leads the team with 8.0 rebounds. He also ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage (63.3). Team Captains, sophomore Dominic Douglas (Bainbridge, GA/Bainbridge High) and junior Justin Stokes (Buffalo, NY/Middle Early College) are averaging 11.7 and 10.2 points respectively.
“This is what we worked all year for,” Stokes said. “Since day one of last year, our goal was to make postseason and we did it in our second year. It’s pretty cool.”
The Lady Vikings finished the season with a 17-8 overall record for the second straight year and were ranked second in the USCAA Power Rankings. They are led by Player of the Year Candidate, sophomore Shaquana Owens (Buffalo, NY/Tapestry Charter) who ranks second in the country in scoring per game (22.5). She ranks second in three-pointers made per game (3.1), third in steals per game (4.3), and fifth in blocks per game (2.2). Not far behind her is athletic freshman Armoni Jordan (Lockport, NY/South Park) who ranks fifth nationally in scoring (20.2). Senior Jayvonna Kincannon (Buffalo, NY/Genesee Community) is scoring 13.7 points and ranks third nationally with 5.6 assists per game. As a team, Villa ranks third in points per game (76.2), second in made field goals per game (29.4), third in threes made per game (6.8), third in assists per game (17.2) and third in steals per game (15.2).
“Our players couldn’t be more happy,” women’s head coach Al Monaco said. “They have all worked extremely hard this season and have done everything we have asked of them. We are not looking just to go to this tournament, but we want to play well and win.”
“We want to dedicate this tournament and this appearance to Sister Maria Pares,” Monaco continued. “Sister meant so much to this program, this College, and these young ladies. We will be playing for her.”
Pares, the longtime women’s coach in the Western New York, passed away earlier this month after a long battle with cancer. She helped Villa Maria get the women’s program off the ground.
Monaco has posted a 34-16 record in two seasons with Villa. He is assisted by Dave Skolen
The USCAA is a national governing body that exists to provide small colleges the opportunity to compete against like institutions in size and resource for National Championships and student-athlete recognition.
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