Northwest Missouri State women defeat Emporia State in MIAA final

There will be a new NCAA Division II women’s basketball champion this season. Northwest Missouri State made sure of that.

The Bearcats, led by senior center Kyla Roehrig’s 26 points and 17 rebounds, not only defeated Emporia State 79-63 in the championship game of the MIAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Sunday at Municipal Auditorium, but also probably dashed the Hornets’ hopes of defending its national title.

The Bearcats, 25-4, will be the second seed in the South Central Regional Tournament in Tallequah, Okla., and Washburn of the MIAA, will also have a seed. Emporia State wasn't expected to get an at-large bid.

“It’s a shame,” said Northwest Missouri State coach Gene Steinmeyer. “For this league to only get two teams is really sad.”

But Steinmeyer couldn’t feel too bad about costing the MIAA a team in the tournament.

“It would be a shame not to see the national champs not get in. ... It also would be a shame to see (Emporia State) matched up with us,” said Steinmeyer, whose team likely would have faced Emporia, 20-9, in a first-round round game of second and seven seeds had the Hornets been in the regional. The Hornets might not have been left out had it not been for some upsets in some other tournaments, particularly the Heartland and Lone Star conferences.

Emporia State, which has been playing shorthanded for most of the season because of key injuries to some players who were part of the 2010 national championship, beat Central Missouri in overtime and upset second-seeded Washburn to get to Sunday’s championship game.

But they fell behind 10-0 to Northwest Missouri and spent the rest of the game playing catch-up against a Bearcats team that trailed for only 2 minutes of the tournament, in the opening round against No. 8 Truman State.

Emporia, behind the relentless play of senior Alli Volkens, who scored 29 points with 18 rebounds, got to within 52-50 on Volkens’ three-point play with 12:59 to play in the game, but the Bearcats then went on a 19-4 run and put the game away.

Volkens, a 6-2 senior, bit back her lip but unsuccessfully could not hold back her tears when asked how difficult will it be not to be able to defend the national title.

“It (stinks),” she said, “but this is the position we’ve been put in,” she said.

Jory Collins, who replaced Brandon Schneider as the Hornets’ head coach this season, was equally as disappointed.

“It’s tough because in my first year, I had expectations for myself, and our team, and the last thing you want to do coming off a national championship is to let your school down and your fan base down,” said Collins. “We’re supposed to be an NCAA tournament team every year, and we’re supposed to make noise in the tournament every single year.

“To not have a chance to at least get in but I’m proud of our young players. As disappointed as I am that we’re done, I’m just excited about what’s coming for us the next few years.”