20-Year Storm Returns as #11 Women's Basketball Opens NCAA East Regional on Home Court

Top-seeded Skyhawks open NCAA Tournament against 8th-seeded Southern Conn. State as Merkert Gym hosts NCAA Regional for first time since 1995

2018 NCAA II Women's Basketball East Regional Website

2018 NCAA II Women's Basketball Tournament Digital Program

Interactive Bracket

Hyslip posted a double-double and scored her 1000th career point in the regular season matchup between Stonehill and Southern Connecticut State (PHOTO BY Mike Tureski/SportsPix)

EASTON, Mass. (March 8, 2018) – The NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament returns to Merkert Gymnasium on the campus of Stonehill College for the first time in 23 years when the East Regional tips off on Friday and runs through Monday night's regional championship.

Top-seeded Stonehill (26-3, 20-1 NE10) will open the NCAA Tournament against No. 8 Southern Connecticut State University (21-9, 14-6 NE10), who finished first atop the Northeast-10 Conference's Southwest Division, in a first round matchup on Friday at 5 p.m. Friday's opening game will feature No. 6 LIU Post (22-7, 17-2 ECC), the East Coast Conference regular season champions, against No. 3 University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (28-3, 17-2 CACC), the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference regular season and tournament champions, at noon. No. 7 Jefferson University (26-5, 16-3 CACC) and No. 2 Bentley (27-3, 18-3 NE10), the NE10 Tournament Champions, will be up next at 2:30 p.m., while No. 5 Caldwell University (24-6, 16-3 CACC) and No. 4 Saint Thomas Aquinas College (27-4, 16-2 ECC), the ECC Tournament champs close out the opening day after the Stonehill/Southern matchup at 7:30 p.m.

Admission for each session of the regional will be $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for students, children and senior citizens. All Session passes are also available for $25.00 for adults and $10.00 for students, children and senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at stonehillskyhawks.com. All games at the East Regional will be webcast free of charge through collegetvticket.com and produced by BTV (Bridgewater Access Television Online), with Steve Zerdelian, Charlie Bergeron, Brian Buckley and Jacob Van Ryn calling the action over the course of the three days. Links to the webcast and live stats are available at stonehillskyhawks.com.

The East Regional continues with regional semifinals on Saturday at 5 and 7:30 p.m., with the Regional Championship scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. The winner of Friday's Southern/Stonehill matchup will face the winner of the Caldwell/STAC game on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Stonehill returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, when it reached the East Regional final, and makes its 24th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, but will serve as host of the event for the first time since 1995, having earned the region's top seed for just the second time. Stonehill also hosted NCAA Tournament games at Merkert Gym in 1987, 1985 and 1983 prior to the current regional format. Stonehill defeated Saint Anselm College 82-69 in the 1995 regional final at Merkert to advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the second-straight year on its way to the National Semifinals. The Skyhawks 24 NCAA Tournament appearances is tied for fourth in Division II history and second in the region to No. 2-seeded and rival Bentley's 34 NCAA bids.

Martin, the NE10 Player of the Year, earned All-Tournament team honors at the NE10 Championships last weekend. (PHOTO BY Bob Blanchard)

It marks the 11th NCAA bid for Stonehill under four-time Northeast-10 Coach of the Year Trisha Brown, in her 17th season. The Skyhawks reached the regional final at the 2015 East Regional, hosted by Adelphi University, where they were edged by then second-seeded and No. 23-ranked University of New Haven, 58-57, for a spot in the Elite Eight. Stonehill aims to take advantage of the "Magic of the Merkert" this weekend as the program reached the second of two-straight Elite Eights the last time it hosted in 1995 on its way to a spot in the national semifinals for the first time.

Stonehill, which won its ninth Northeast-10 Conference regular season championship with a program record for NE10 wins, enters the NCAA Tournament looking to remove the taste of a bitter 73-72 overtime setback to Bentley in the NE10 Championship, which was played at Bryant University, its last time out on Sunday. Prior to that, the Skyhawks had won 17-straight since the New Year, having also finished the regular season with a program-record 20 consecutive wins in NE10 play. Stonehill's 26 wins mark the 25th time in program history it has reached or surpassed 20 wins in a season, and the win total is four behind a program-record 30-3 mark in 1994-95.

Stonehill, 15-0 at home this season, ranks second in the NE10 for scoring offense (70.6 ppg) and third for scoring defense (57.9 ppg), leading the Conference in field goal percentage defense (.342) and blocked shots per game (7.0), ranking second for three-point percentage defense (.263). The Skyhawks also lead the NE10 in free-throw percentage (.766) and assists per game (18.6), ranking second in rebound margin (+7.2) and third in field goal percentage (.420). Stonehill leads Division II in blocked shots per game, ranking third in field goal percentage defense, ninth for three-point FG percentage defense, seventh in assists per game and 21st in scoring defense.

Stonehill is led by a trio of All-NE10 seniors in Kelly Martin (Scituate, Massachusetts/Scituate), a first team honoree who also earned a spot on the NE10 All-Championship team last week, as well as second team All-NE10 selections Samantha Hyslip (Westford, Massachusetts/Westford Academy) and Courtney Walsh (Windham, New Hampshire/Central Catholic). Martin, who earned All-Tournament team honors at the 2015 NCAA East Regional, fills the stat sheet with 16.2 points (5th NE10), 7.0 rebounds (12th), 5.1 assists (2nd) and 1.1 steals in 34 minutes per game, shooting 83.8-percent (109-for-130) from the free-throw line (4th). Hyslip leads inside with 13.6 points (10th), 8.3 rebounds (8th) and 1.8 assists per game, shooting 49.7% from the floor (4th) and 80.9% (93-115) from the free-throw line (12th). Walsh contributes on the perimeter with 11.4 points on 40.1% shooting, including 36.6% (70-191) from three-point range (8th), with 2.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Senior Elizabeth Grip (Shrewsbury, Massachusetts/Shrewsbury), the NE10 Defensive Player of the Year who also earned a spot on the NE10 All-Championship team last weekend, spearheads the Skyhawks defense inside with an NE10-high 3.7 blocked shots per game, ranking sixth nationally in Division II, while chipping in with 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. She has blocked five or more shots ten times this season after her seven blocks in Sunday's NE10 Championship game extended her school-record total to 106 for the season, becoming just the ninth player in NE10 history to surpass 100 blocks in a season.

Walsh became the fourth player in program history to reach 200 career three-point field goals in Sunday's NE10 Championship (PHOTO BY Mike Tureski/SportsPix)

Sophomores Grace Carter (Arlington, Massachusetts/Arlington) and Gabrielle Reuter (Plymouth, Massachusetts/Lawrence Academy) add support of the Stonehill seniors. Carter has started the last 17 games and is averaging 6.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, while Reuter contributes 6.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks off the bench.

Southern Connecticut State is making its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance this week, having reached the Elite Eight twice, including its National Championship run in 2007. Kate Lynch, now in her third season at the helm of her alma mater, was a two-time All-American for the Owls, leading the team to the 2007 national title. SCSU is 13-5 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, and ranks fifth among NE10 leaders for scoring defense (58.3 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.370), ranking fourth for three-point percentage defense (.272). The Owls are third in the Conference for three-point percentage (.333), committing the second-fewest turnovers per game (14.4) and ranking second in steals per game (9.1), while ranking ninth in scoring (60.7 ppg).

Senior Abby Hurlbert (Thomaston, Connectictut/Thomaston), a first team All-NE10 selection, leads the way for Southern, averaging 13.8 points on 37-percent shooting (70-for-185) from three-point range, with 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 steals. Sophomore Kiana Steinauer (Oakville, Ontario/St. Ignatius of Loyola), an honorable mention All-NE10 pick, averages a double-double with 10.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, shooting 41% from the floor, with 1.4 steals per contest.

Senior Africa Williams (New York, New York/Benjamin Banneker) contributes 9.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a steal per outing, while classmate Murphy Murad (Storrs, Connecticut/EO Smith) dishes out a team-high 2.6 assists per game.

Friday night will mark the 31st meeting all-time between these two programs, the fifth in postseason play and second in the NCAA Tournament. Stonehill holds a 17-13 advantage in the all-time series, having split the four previous postseason encounters, with Southern Connecticut State posting a 62-60 triumph in the first round of the 2017 NE10 Tournament right here at Merkert Gym. The Skyhawks won the only previous NCAA Tournament matchup with a 57-49 decision in the second round of the 2003 event at Bentley.

Stonehill broke open a 30-30 game at the half to post a 63-52 victory over Southern Connecticut State in their lone meeting of the season in New Haven, Connecticut, on January 13. Hyslip and Martin each notched double-doubles to lead Stonehill, with Hyslip becoming the 31st student-athlete in program history to surpass 1,000 career points. Hyslip scored 13 of her team-high 17 points in the second half, to go with a career-high matching 15 rebounds (seven offensive) and three assists, while Martin tallied her fourth double-double of the year with 13 points and a career-high matching 11 rebounds, and six. Hurlbert scored a team-high 16 points for the Owls, with two rebounds and four steals, while Steinhauer recorded a double-double for the Owls with 13 points and 13 rebounds, with three steals.

For the latest on Stonehill Athletics, follow the Skyhawks via social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Fans can also download the Stonehill Skyhawks "Front Row" mobile app, powered by PrestoSports, on iTunes and the Android Market.

2018 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament
East Regional
hosted by Stonehill College
Merkert Gymnasium, Easton, Mass.

Friday, March 9
Regional Quarterfinals

#6 LIU Post (22-7, 17-2 ECC) vs. #3 USciences (28-3, 17-2 CACC), Noon
#7 Jefferson (26-5, 16-3 CACC) vs. #2 Bentley (27-3, 18-3 NE10), 2:30 p.m.
#8 Southern Connecticut State (21-9, 14-6 NE10) at #1 Stonehill (26-3, 20-1 NE10), 5 p.m.
#5 Caldwell (24-6, 16-3 CACC) vs. #4 St. Thomas Aquinas (27-4, 16-2 ECC), 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 10
Regional Semifinals

#3-#6 winner vs. #2-#7 winner, 5 p.m.
#1-#8 winner vs. #4-#5 winner, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, March 10
Regional Championship

Regional semifinal winners, 7 p.m.