The Lady Royals brought home the title of 6th in the nation after competing in the National Christian College Athletic Association DII Women’s Basketball National Championship at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC.
The team, consisting of only six players, headed to Greenville after appearing on Channel 10 News for a short interview on March 4.
On Thursday, the Lady Royals played the 3rd ranked team in the nation, Randall University, and lost 66-67 on a shot made by their opponent with 7 seconds left on the clock.
They played again Friday morning against the host team, BJU, and lost 69-57. This final game left them ranked 6th in the nation.
“This week proved we could compete with the best…,” JU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Amy James said. “I truly believe everyone that had not seen these ladies play thought we had made it to the National Tournament by mistake, however, when we were finished playing both games we had everyone in the gym shaking their heads and saying, ‘I have never seen 6 players compete like they did’.”
At the National Championship awards banquet, Keisha McIntyre, Michaela Keele, and Taylor Thurman received Scholar-Athlete awards.
During their time at national championship week, the team completed a community service project of designing and illustrating placemats for the local Children’s Hospital.
The Royals had an exciting week of tennis picking up their first win of the season as well as playing their first home match on the newly built ARC tennis courts.
The Royals opened up their first week of the first season traveling to Asheville, North Carolina to play Warren Wilson College. The Royals came out firing early scoring a couple of quick points with awin at the second position by Danielle Keehner and Madi Buchanan and the third position by Iris Loveday and Emily Allen, both by a score of 8-0. The Royals would have to fight for the final doubles point as Annalise McDonald and Hannah Hamm pulled away late to win 8-5.
The Royals continued their run on the singles court with Buchanan, Olive Anderson, and Allen took down their opponents without dropping a game. At the two spot, Keehner got down early but ended the match by winning 12 straight games to put her opponent away. The final win for the Royals was freshman Loveday picking up her first college singles win by a score of 6-2, 6-4.
On Saturday, the Royals were back in action but this time on the Johnson ARC tennis courts against Wittenberg College. In the first women’s tennis match ever played on Johnson’s campus, the Royals welcomed many fans for a good day of tennis. The pair of Buchanan and Keehner used the energy of the crowd and the new courts to play a handful of inspired points in big moments. Trading blows all the way to a tie-breaker, the pair both earned and fought off match points. In the end, the pair from Wittenberg were able to pull out the win.
Momentum would stay with Wittenberg throughout the beginning of singles. After falling in the first set 2-6, sophomore Olive Anderson would storm back in the 2nd set to blitz her opponent 6-0. Tied at a set apiece, Anderson and her opponent would trade shots and points in a 10-point tiebreak with neither player ever leading by more than 2 points. Both facing match points and earning match points, Anderson fought hard to the very end losing by a final count of 12-10. Though the Royals did not pick up any wins against Wittenberg, the Royals definitely held their own for their first match on their own courts.
Coach Hale explained the ups and downs of the week after the match saying, “Starting off the spring with a win is a great boost of confidence. We all played very well and everyone was able to get up early and execute our game plan. I was also very proud of how we fought on Saturday, though we lost some really tight heartbreakers, we fought to the very end and really embraced playing on campus with the support everyone behind us. This week has definitely laid the foundation for us to have a good season.”
The Royals return to the ARC on March 14th against Ferrum College.