Maryville College learned the destination of their second-consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament on Tuesday, as the Scots will take on No. 7 Trine University in Greencastle, Ind.
MC earned an automatic bid to the Regionals after claiming their second-straight USA South Athletic Conference Tournament title in LaGrange, Ga.
"It's really special," Head Coach Leah Kelley said. "It's special for this group, and it's special for the college for us to make back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament. That's just where our program is now. We're just going to do our best to go up and represent the college and our program as best we can."
The Regionals will be played May 10-12, as the Scots travel to No. 18 DePauw University. They take on the Thunder of Trine, as DePauw faces Saint Vincent College in the double-elimination format. Times for the tournament have not been released. See the full bracket HERE.
MC goes into the NCAA Tournament with more experience this season. The Scots ranked as the Atlanta Regional Runners-up last year, as they hope to raise the standard the program has set.
"It's going to be nice," senior Christen Torres said "Last year, we were just lucky to be there. We were happy, and we felt like we had nothing to lose. This year, when we won the conference, we were like the standard is so much higher. This is something that we were expected to do. Now that we're in Regionals, we have new expectations of winning a Regional. We're coming with a little more fire under us."
For Kelley, having six seniors on the squad coupled with the experience of the Regional last year is crucial for her team.
MC lost just one senior in Rachel Taylor following last season's historic 31-win campaign.
"It gives us an upper hand of been there, done that, with basically the same team – only missing one," Kelley said. "We're going to go as far as we can. We're going to keep [these seniors] as student-athletes for as long as possible. I don't want them to leave my program. They've done so much for us in building the program to where it is now. Without them, it's not what it is. We want to keep them as student-athletes as long as possible, and keep their experience and their memories going."
"I can't wait," sophomore Taylor Campbell said. "I just want to keep playing with my best friends. This means so much for this program, just how we've built this program up. Coach Kelley and our seniors have changed it around here, and it just shows all the hard work we've put in."
Seventh-ranked Trine had to rely on an At-Large bid to the dance, after the Thunder fell in back-to-back games during the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament.
Kelley said she's not seen much on the Thunder, but that is part of the excitement.
"That's a good thing that we don't know," she said. "If we go to the Atlanta Regional, we know all of those teams. This is a whole new experience, and the advantage is that we don't know them and they don't know us. They're probably going to take us lightly, and we love that underdog spirit. We're excited to go up and play some different teams. I'm glad we got this draw. It's kind of out of nowhere, but I'm glad that we're going somewhere to play some different teams to see how we match up against some of the northern teams."
Trine comes into the NCAA Tournament with a 30-6 mark overall. The Thunder is hitting at .345 as a squad, while blasting 39 homers during 2019.
Trine University relies heavily on two pitchers in junior Hannah Kampmann and senior Kate Saupe. The duo have 26 combined wins, as both ERAs hover just below 1.75. The Thunder has a team ERA of 1.96, allowing just 65 earned runs in 36 contests – 10 of those coming in their final two games.
Maryville, however, comes into the tournament on a five-game winning streak throughout the USA South Tournament. MC swept the three games they faced in LaGrange, Ga., eventually defeating Averett University, 5-0, for the championship.
The Scots went 15-1 in the USA South regular season.
"It was incredible just to see our hard work paying off," Torres said. "Just knowing that we're a family, and it wasn't a fluke – we can do it, and we can do it every year if we put our mind to it."
MC is hitting .323 as a unit, while slugging at a .444 clip. Campbell leads the Scots with a .487 batting average, while Murray has posted a team-leading 31 runs.
Maryville has hit 50 doubles, eight triples and 18 homers this season, while scoring 215 total runs.
Katlyn Smith leads the pitching corps as the USA South Pitcher of the Year. The sophomore holds a 1.33 ERA, as she's struck out 178 batters this season. She holds a 21-3 record on the year.
MC claimed the USA South Championship by outscoring opponents, 32-11, over five contests.
"It's huge for us to be playing so well right now," Kelley said. "We come in and we sweep in a conference that is very competitive against teams that are the most competitive in our conference. It's a big advantage for us. Our confidence – most of this game is confidence anyways – and our confidence seems to be there right now. My team plays best when they're just having fun. Right now, when we go up there, we're just going to play and have fun."