As one would expect at this time of year, it will be a matchup of two hot-down-the-stretch teams on Thursday (Dec. 1) at 2:30 p.m. when Ashland University and Lewis play a 2016 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional quarterfinal at Ferris State University.
The No. 6-seed Eagles come into their first postseason appearance since 2013 at 23-10 overall, having won 13 of their last 15 matches and finishing second in both the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament and GLIAC South Division standings. The No. 3-seed Flyers are 25-7, have won nine of their last 10, and were the Great Lakes Valley Conference's East Division champions.
"It's absolutely fantastic that we have the opportunity to go back to the NCAA Tournament," said Ashland head coach Cass Dixon. "We gave the girls and ourselves a few days off, and came in for our first practice back Sunday night, and it was great. It's probably the best practice we've had after being off even two days, so they were really excited about being back and being back in the gym with each other and about what lies ahead of us this week."
Ashland last played on Nov. 20 in the 2016 GLIAC Tournament championship match, a 3-0 loss to regional host Ferris State. It was just the Eagles' second loss in the last six weeks.
The other three Midwest Regional quarterfinals on Thursday have No. 2 Findlay (21-9) taking on No. 7 Cedarville (26-8), No. 1 FSU (28-5) playing host to No. 8 Truman State (18-16) and No. 4 Rockhurst (27-6) matching up with No. 5 Saginaw Valley State (19-11).
"There's a lot of really good teams that have made it to the regional tournament," Dixon said, "and throughout the season, we've all kind of beat up on each other, which is interesting. At this point and time, I don't think there's a clear-cut team that we go, 'Oh, so-and-so is going to win it.' I think it truly is anybody's game."
All-time in the D-II postseason, Ashland is 5-6 in six appearances (2004-07, 2012-13). The Eagles are 3-3 all-time in regional quarterfinals, and have won two in a row.
This will be the first time Ashland will play a Midwest Regional in Big Rapids, Mich.
2016 NCAA DIVISION II MIDWEST REGIONAL
Thursday, Dec. 1 – Quarterfinal Matches
Noon - Match 1: No. 2 Findlay vs. No. 7 Cedarville
2:30 p.m. - Match 2: No. 3 Lewis vs. No. 6 Ashland
5:00 p.m. - Match 3: No. 1 Ferris State vs. No. 8 Truman State
7:30 p.m. - Match 4: No. 4 Rockhurst vs. No. 5 Saginaw Valley State
Friday, Dec. 2 – Semifinal Matches
5 p.m.: Winner Match No. 1 vs. Winner Match No. 2
7:30 p.m.: Winner Match No. 3 vs. Winner Match No. 4
Saturday, Dec. 3 – Final Match
4 p.m.: Winners of the two semifinal matches