Lady Jackets Season Over as NCCAA Cancels National Tournament

by Tim Miller

The NCCAA announced yesterday that it has canceled its women’s basketball national tournament. The tournament, that was supposed to take place next week, included the Cedarville Lady Jackets.

The cancellation, to no surprise, is due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. In a release, the NCCAA said it hopes to “mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.” Cancellations are sweeping the nation in light of the outbreak, as professional leagues are suspending play and college sports seasons are being canceled.

Head coach Kari Hoffman said she agreed with the NCCAA’s decision, but that it doesn’t come without disappointment. Cedarville likely would have entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed and seemed to own a good shot of taking home the title.

“It’s frustrating to come to an abrupt end, but there are more important things to focus on, like everyone’s health,” Hoffman said. “I think we had a good chance to win the tournament. I thought we were focused and ready to play three really good games.”

Senior guard Abby Wolford said it was painful to hear she had played in her final collegiate game, but said she felt worse for spring athletes who won’t compete again this season.

“It was heartbreaking,” Wolford said of the news. “It’s an awful feeling having your last game not knowing it’s your last. We got to experience everything but the very end, but I can’t imagine the spring sports. Honestly my heart breaks for them.”

This officially closes the book on the 2019-20 Cedarville Lady Jackets. Cedarville finishes the season at 21-8 and 13-5 in the G-MAC, and the Lady Jackets have now won 20 games or more in five of their past six seasons. Cedarville won its final game, crushing Roberts Wesleyan 92-62 on Wednesday night in the NCCAA Midwest Regional Tournament.

Hoffman said her heart went out to the seniors for the way the season ended. However, the way they finished the year probably couldn’t have gone any better.

“I feel the most sad for the seniors,” Hoffman said. “This time of the year is always hard, but for them to just be done, it’s so hard. I am happy though that each of them finished well in our game against Roberts Wesleyan. To have them contribute like they did, all three of them, and us win by 30, not many entire senior classes end their careers with that.”

Cedarville will bid adieu to three seniors. Wolford was one of the top contributors to the program and spent six years with the team due to two season-ending injuries. Wolford averaged 14.6 points per game this season and finishes her career with 1,319 points. Wolford also shot 42% from the field and 36% from behind the arc.

“Abby will be missed in so many ways, on and off the court,” Hoffman said. “She was a difference maker and a winner between the lines, with incredible leadership and a servant’s heart off the floor, that won’t be replaced. I can’t thank her enough for her investment in our program for six years.”

The Lady Jackets also lose guard Anna DeFilippo and forward Cameron Peek. DeFilippo ended her career with the Lady Jackets by scoring a career-high nine points in the final game of her career. Peek also closed her career with a bow, matching her season-high with 10 points in her final game and made all six of her free-throw attempts.

Barring the departure of Wolford, the Lady Jackets return their top eight scorers going into next season. Cedarville will likely be led by guard Ashlyn Huffman, who will enter her senior year. The Columbus, Indiana, native averaged 11.6 points per game and 5.9 assists this year.

Further, reigning G-MAC Freshman of the Year Isabelle Bolender will return for her second season. Bolender averaged 10.0 points per game this season while shooting 49.8% from the field and 40.7% from behind the arc.

“My expectations are high for the entire team and I’m excited for them,” Wolford said. “I expect them to protect the program and what it stands for and contribute to the sisterhood. I’m so excited to see them grow and see what they accomplish next.”

With another winning season in the books, the Cedarville women’s basketball program is still in good shape. The Lady Jackets lost a lot of production from last season, but through leadership from Wolford and contributions from multiple players, the Lady Jackets churned out another successful season, one that exceeded expectations.

Because of this, and the grit the players brought to the court daily, Hoffman said it was difficult to see the season end.

“This team was tough, the toughest that I have coached,” Hoffman said. “It’s a coach’s dream to walk into every practice and game knowing you have a shot because they will play their hardest for you.  I’ll miss the seniors and just the overall fun we had. I wasn’t ready to be done with them yet.”

Tim Miller is a senior Marketing major, editor-in-chief and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face and striving to perfect the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.

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