This time, the invitation never came.
Holding out hope for a second straight at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the King’s women’s basketball team was left waiting. The Lady Monarchs were not picked to return to the national stage when the 64-team bracket was unveiled on Monday, ending their season.
King’s just missed an automatic berth, losing to FDU-Florham on Saturday in the Freedom Conference championship game. A 21-6 overall record and one of the region’s tougher schedules was not enough to claim one of the 20 “Pool C” selections to the field after all of the conference champions were slotted.
“It’s disappointing, especially when we went 20-6 in our region and had such a strong strength of schedule,” King’s coach Brian Donoghue said in a school release. “You hear a lot of talk about strength of schedule and (how) it’s important, but when it doesn’t seem to be factored in at the end of the season, it makes you wonder.”
Last season, King’s also lost in the Freedom title game, but at 22-5 still claimed a spot in the Division III tournament.
Hosting a four-team pod in the opening two rounds, the Lady Monarchs beat Oneonta State and upset nationally ranked William Paterson to reach the Sweet 16. They then bowed out in that round to Emmanuel College.
Much of that team returned for 2012-13, including six key contributors in Katlin Michaels, Celia Rader, Lindsay Atchison, Marissa Manning, Molly Dahl and Ashley Davies.
Manning and Davies were regulars in the starting lineup in the fall semester before injuries ended their season early. Four seniors — Michaels, Rader, Atchison and Dahl — helped the Lady Monarchs win 16 of their final 18 games while typically joined in the lineup by emerging freshman Jennifer Fabian.
Atchison, Dahl, Michaels, Rader and a fifth senior, Crestwood grad Kyley Henry, wrapped up their college careers.
“I feel really bad for our seniors who carried us all year, especially through some tough times,” Donoghue said. “They played their hearts out and it would have been nice for them to end their careers in the NCAA tournament.”