March only comes once a year and for basketball players, it means it’s tournament time.
The Ferris women’s basketball team ended their regular season Thursday, Feb. 28, with a 68-59 victory over Lake Superior State University. The win brought their record to 14-12 overall and got them a spot in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Tournament. The Bulldogs are set to face Northern Michigan University (NMU) in the quarterfinals in the Wildcats’ home arena 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 5. NMU is coming in ranked No. 4 in GLIAC while Ferris is ranked No. 5.
Ferris women’s basketball head coach Kendra Faustin has been with the Bulldogs for four years. Last year was the first time in her four year run the Bulldogs made it to the GLIAC Tournament.
“We prepare the same way, by getting one percent better every day, getting in the gym, watching film, studying our scouting report, taking care of our body and minds,” Faustin said. “We are thrilled to be playing in March.”
Like most tournaments, the GLIAC is set up with a win or go home format. With that on the players’ minds, they’re practicing hard, so they won’t just have one game in the tournament.
“The tournament does have an added level of intensity when you are playing for one and done, but we take one game at a time,” Faustin said. “We don’t care who we play. We are excited to have earned the opportunity to play another game together.”
The Bulldogs have lost to NMU twice this year, but the match-ups were close with Ferris losing in double overtime at home 70-66 in their last meeting.
While Faustin said she did not have a certain team in mind that she wants to face, Ferris junior guard Riley Blair would love the opportunity to face long-time rival Grand Valley State University (GVSU), who is currently No. 1 in the GLIAC.
“Whoever we face is an exciting challenge for us. Being the GLIAC playoffs, they are all teams we have faced before so it's nice having that background knowledge on them,” Blair said. “Playing GVSU would be something we would all be super excited about. They are our biggest rival and having only played them once in the regular season, we feel like we have some unfinished business to wrap up.”
Blair has been a big help throughout the season for the Bulldogs, going into the tournament averaging 10.6 points per game in her 23.2 average minutes per game. Blair said the whole team steps up when it comes to tournament play.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say there isn’t something different in the air during March,” Blair said. “It is a whole new vibe that comes with a lot of excitement and fun. That being said, we are just as in tune mentally and physically as we are for any other game. We still have the mindset that we are going to go out there and do our thing.”
This will be the last GLIAC Tournament for Ferris senior guard Alexis Bush and Ferris senior post Abby Nakfoor, and both have been leaders on the team throughout their times here, according to Faustin.
“Our seniors have done a great job setting the narrative for our team going into tournament play,” Faustin said. “Roles don’t change, but having seniors with tournament experience and a perspective of the time and effort it takes to get to postseason play is invaluable.”