Lions' elite eight streak on line


March 16, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,
(Daily Pilot File…)

The Vanguard University women's basketball team used tape cutters exclusively for their intended purpose this season. The Lions, who open their 10th straight trip to the NAIA Tournament in Jackson, Tenn. today at 1:30 p.m. against Langston University, might, in fact, have worn out at least one pair in 2010-11, tending to an outbreak of injuries that crippled their chances to cut down the nets for an eighth straight campaign.

Coach Russ Davis and his players have ceremonially sheared nets from the rim about a dozen times in the previous seven seasons, piling up Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles, as well as the 2008 national championship.

This year's NAIA Tournament run, however, is virtually doomed from the start, as the No. 19-ranked Lions (17-11) are the underdog against Oklahoma-based Langston (28-5).

Vanguard is the No. 5 seed in its eight-team quadrant, while Langston, the Red River Conference champion, is seeded No. 4.


Vanguard, however, just might have enough to extend its first-round winning streak to nine, as Langston has been eliminated in the first round the last two seasons and is 3-8 in eight tournament trips.

The Lions, in fact, have reached at least the quarterfinals of the 32-team event at Oman Arena every year since falling in the first round in 2002. That run includes semifinal exits in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

In his 14th season at the helm, Davis, a former Estancia High girls coach, has created one of the NAIA's premier programs. The Lions' 13 trips to the national tournament are topped by only seven schools. Only six schools have more NAIA Tournament wins than Vanguard, which is 23-11, and only four schools have surpassed Vanguard's four Final Four appearances.

Should the Lions get past Langston, the No. 2 national seed, Campbellsville of Kentucky (28-3) would be the likely second-round matchup Friday.

Union of Tennessee (31-1) is the No. 1 seed, while GSAC champion Azusa Pacific (28-5) is the No. 3 seed. Union beat APU in last year's title game.

Among those playing their final game(s) at Vanguard will be seniors Sarah Boyd and Molly Pfohl, both of whom were key contributors to the national title when they were freshmen.

Boyd, who leads the NAIA in assists with 6.8 per game, and Pfohl are both first-team All-GSAC performers. Pfohl is averaging 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. Boyd, who has practiced sparingly due to a leg injury that she continues to play through, chips in 11.4 points per contest.


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