Sports

Red Raiders Open Championship Against Olivet Nazarene Thursday

Top-seed and fourth-ranked Northwestern begins play at the 2019 NAIA Division II National Championship against (RV) Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) on Thursday, March 7. Tip-off at the Tyson Events Center is scheduled for 3:30pm. Northwestern, the No.1 seed in the Cramer Bracket, owns a 26-4 record. The Tigers, owning a No.8 seed, is 21-11 overall.

The Red Raiders earned the first of nine at-large bids into the 32-team field and are one of six teams from the Great Plains Athletic Conference, most of all leagues, in this year’s field. Olivet Nazarene won the Chicagoland┬áCollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament championship to earn the second of the league’s two auto bids (St.Francis-Ill.). They join St. Francis and Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) as teams from the CCAC in the field.

ONU brings a four-game win streak into Thursday’s opening round game, defeating Trinity International in the final game of the regular season, followed by three wins in the CCAC Conference Tournament. They recorded a pair of upsets, defeating #14 St.Francis in the semi’s and #17 in the conference title game, in their last two games. The Tigers finished fourth in the regular season, behind St.Francis, Cardinal Stritch and St.Xavier. They are 4-6 against ranked teams and 0-2 against teams from the GPAC, losing to both Morningside and Briar Cliff at the beginning of the season.

ONU once again is the top scoring team in the NAIA, averaging 95 points per game; this is the 13th time in the last 15 seasons the Tigers have led the nation in scoring

Northwestern was the GPAC co-regular season champion. along with Concordia, going 19-3 in league play. They lost to Dakota Wesleyan in the conference semifinals and received the first at-large bid into the 32-team championship.

Five Red Raiders received all-conference honors, led by Kassidy De Jong and Darbi Gustafson with first team accolades. Haley Birks was a second team pick and both Anna Kiel and Sammy Blum were honorable mention.