The Villa Maria women's basketball team was awarded the top seed in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship Tournament that begins this weekend in Uniontown, Pa.
The Vikings are led by Shaquana Owens, the reigning National Player of the Year. Owens is averaging more than 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists per game.
Villa will open play at 4 p.m. on Monday against the winner of the Sunday game between No. 8 Southern Maine vs. No. 9 Penn State Fayette.
The Vikings are riding a 22-game win streak and finished the regular season 23-2. Coach Al Monaco's team has used a pressure defense to fuel an up-tempo offense.
"Our young women have really played a unit coming down the stretch this year," Monaco said in a news release. "I couldn't be more proud of how they handled this season. Starting the year 1-2, it was uncommon for us. It would have been easy for us to feel bad for ourselves. Instead our leaders rallied together and got us back on track. This winning streak is a testament to how determined they are."
Villa's men's team will be the No. 2 seed. After leading the Vikings to a 24-3 record, coach Don Silveri thinks his team is playing its best basketball of the season.
"These last five games of our season, we have really began to gel and come together on both ends of the floor," Silveri said in a news release. "Defensively, we have turned it up a notch and offensively we are continuing to get good shots and share the basketball. I really like where we're at."
The Vikings held the top spot in the National Coaches Poll for six weeks this season and ended the year on a five-game winning streak. A year ago, the Vikings advanced to the title game as the three seed before falling short to four-time defending national champion Berkeley College. The Knights are seeded No. 1 again.
"Right now, we have to take everything one game at a time," Silveri said. "We played well enough to advance to the finals last season but this is a new year and new tournament. Nothing is guaranteed. Our players know that and are showing that in practice, working as hard as ever to achieve their goal of winning a national championship."
Villa opens the tournament at 6 p.m. on Monday against the winner between No. 7 Penn State Mont Alto and No. 10 Vermont Tech. That game will take place Sunday.