Watch the postseason competition in basketball, hockey and track and field this weekend
By Gene McGivern
Sports Information Director
St. Thomas will have key postseason competition this weekend in men's basketball, men's and women's hockey, and men's and women's track and field.
And if cabin fever has you down, consider that UST starts its 2007 baseball season next week with three Metrodome games:
The No. 6-ranked St. Thomas men's basketball team (24-3) is one of five teams nationally in the 59-team NCAA Division III field to receive a first-round bye this week. The Tommies will host a second-round game Saturday at 7 p.m. against either No. 9-ranked Augustana (Ill.) (22-5) or Carroll (Wis.) (16-8) at UST's 1,900-seat Schoenecker Arena.
Tickets will be sold Thursday and Friday, March 1 and 2, on campus in Room 220, O'Shaughnessy Hall (south end of second floor of athletic building). No passes will be honored (MIAC or Minnesota high school coaches). Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for students. Tickets also will be on sale Saturday when doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday night's winner moves to the final 16 and advances to a four-team regional March 9-10 at a site to be determined on March 4.
St. Thomas is making its eighth NCAA playoff trip – all in the last 18 seasons. UST's all-time NCAA playoff record is 9-8, including a 9-3 home record. The Tommies also made eight postseason trips to Kansas City for NAIA national tournaments from 1949-1974.
St. Thomas is 12-1 at home this season, with the lone loss to UW-LaCrosse when All-American center Isaac Rosefelt was sidelined. UST also lost an overtime game at Gustavus when starting point guard Andrew Dwyer was out with an injury. The Tommies are 6-0 in home postseason games over the last three seasons, including a 10-point win over North Central (Ill.) last season in the NCAA first-round.
The Tommies have won 11 of their last 12 games, including Saturday's 75-49 win over St. John's in the MIAC playoff championship game. Coach Steve Fritz's team won the conference regular-season title Feb. 17 with a 74-59 home win over St. John's. The Tommies are 3-1 this season vs. NCAA playoff teams – a 2-1 mark vs. St. John's and a 72-63 November win in California over Occidental.
The Tommies (16-11) host Augsburg in the MIAC playoff semifinals Thursday (7 p.m.) at Saint Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for students at the door. With a victory, the Tommies will play in Saturday night's finals – either at Bethel in Blaine or at home vs. St. Olaf.
UST is looking to make the playoff finals for the 20th time in the 22-year history of the format. The Tommies are 5-0 in the playoff semifinals since the single-game format was initiated in 2002.
Coach Terry Skrypek's team, the MIAC runner-up, has the longest current winning streak in collegiate men's hockey at nine. It's UST's longest win streak in six seasons. St. Thomas, 11-1 since mid-January, fell one spot short of making this week's Division III top 15 national poll. UST has reached 16 wins for the 24th time in 25 seasons and placed in the trop two in the MIAC for the 11th year in a row.
The Tommies (14-11 overall) are the third seed for the MIAC playoffs and compete Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Olaf at Northfield Ice Arena. It's the Tommies' seventh consecutive conference playoff berth. In MIAC playoff home games they are 3-1, but in road games they are 0-4. With a win the Tommies likely will play Saturday in the finals at top-seed Gustavus.
St. Thomas clinched its seventh consecutive winning season but split its last four MIAC series to fall to third place.
MIAC men's track and field championships
St. Thomas is looking to sweep the team titles at the MIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships for the eighth year in a row when the 2007 meet is held Friday and Saturday at St. Olaf's Tostrud Center. Daily tickets are $7 for adults (or $12 for both days) and $3 for students ($5 for both days).
On the men's side, St. Thomas will try to make it 23-for-23 all-time in MIAC indoor team championships. Last March, UST coach Steve Mathre's 2006 team became the first in any sport to win 22 consecutive conference team championships as it scored 215 points to double the total of runner-up Hamline (112).
Senior All-American P.J. Theisen, who scored 46 individual points and anchored a winning relay at the 2006 MIAC indoor meet, will sit out indoors and outdoors in 2007 after recent surgery. The Tommies hope their depth can absorb Theisen's absence. The Tommies have athletes seeded first in 10 of 20 events and will contend for victories in at least two other relays.
Sophomore James Ewer should score well in the long jump and 55 and 200 dashes; freshman Chris Bradford and sophomore Joe DeFrance also rank well in the 55 and 200 dashes. Sophomores Brian Sames and Matt Boumeester will score well in the 600/800/1000 races, and sophomore Kyle Brandon will contend in the mile and distance medley relay. Past MIAC champ senior Matt Schroeder has a 15-11 pole vault this season.
MIAC women's track and field championships
In his 27-year tenure at St. Thomas, women's head coach Joe Sweeney's athletes have won 55 of the 73 possible MIAC team championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. The Tommies have swept the conference indoor and outdoor track team titles six of the last seven seasons, and have won 20 of the last 22 outdoor championships. With two-time NCAA champion Kristal Grigsby and All-American Molly Bauman graduated, the Tommies lean on senior Christina Chapman in the 55, 200 and 400 dashes, and sophomore Katie Theisen in the 600-800-1000 and long jump and triple jump.
And if that's not enough ...
St. Thomas opens its 2007 season Monday in the Metrodome with a games vs. fellow ranked teams UW-Stevens Point (5 p.m.) and St. Scholastica (11 p.m.). The Tommies also play a Metrodome nine-inning game March 7 vs. the Minnesota Gophers (6:30 p.m.).
The Tommies, who have just three seniors on their 29-man varsity roster, won an unprecedented fourth consecutive MIAC title last spring.
UST's Dennis Denning starts his 30th season as a head baseball coach, including his 13th year at St. Thomas. Under Denning, the Tommies are 413-123 overall (.771 win percentage) and 200-40 in MIAC regular-season gam
es (.826 win percentage). St. Thomas has made the NCAA playoffs in 11 of Denning’s 12 seasons and won the conference regular-season or playoff crown each of the last 11 seasons.