WILLIMANTIC—Southington’s Jordyn Nappi is bound for the Sweet 16. As a sophomore guard at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), the former Southington High School and NW Catholic player, is making waves in the NCAA Division III brackets.
Eastern is the only team remaining in the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament which did not receive votes in the most recent national poll, but the Warriors will host Tufts University in the Sweet 16 Friday night at 7 p.m. at Cousens Gymnasium.
Eastern advanced beyond the second round of the tournament for the first time since reaching the national championship game in 2003 by snapping Baruch College’s 21-game winning streak in a second-round victory this past Saturday.
Nappi managed nine points in the victory as the Southington sophomore went 3-for-5 from the floor, and 1-for-2 from long range as the Warriors advanced into the Sweet 16.
In the first round, Eastern stunned No. 12-ranked and host University of Scranton, 50-48. Nappi scored six points in 26 minutes of play in the opening round with three rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
Eastern is involved in its 14th NCAA tournament—eighth under head coach Denise Bierly (394-187). The Warriors were the only second round team to advance on the road, but it won’t be an easy feat to duplicate. Eastern (22-8) lost to No. 5 Tufts (28-1), 63-51, on Nov. 25.
A winner of seven straight and 16 of its last 19, Eastern is ranked tenth in the final NCAA Northeast Region poll. Tufts, a winner of 20 straight since its only loss (52-42 against Scranton in San Juan, P.R. Dec. 28) is first in the Northeast.
FDU is second in the Atlantic and Geneseo first in the East. Tufts advanced through the regionals this past weekend with an 87-46 victory over Pine Manor and 72-67 overtime triumph over St. John Fischer College.
Eastern is the only one of the four sectional teams to win its regional last weekend while playing on the road. In two regional games last weekend, Eastern out-rebounded its opponent by nearly 10 per game and shot 73.0 percent from the foul line.
Eastern’s starting lineup is led by three seniors, Kristina Forsman, Taylor McBride, and Shannon McCourt. The starting lineup is bolstered by junior forward Jill Ritrosky and sophomore guard Julia DePoi.
Led by Ritrosky, Eastern’s top five players average between 7.4 and 12.7 points. Ritrosky is the top scorer (12.7) and rebounder (10.0), with McCourt second in both categories (10.4/6.7). Nappi (9.4) shoots 83.1 percent from the line and averages 1.4 three-point field goals.
Off the bench, Nappi was named as the MVP of the Little East Conference tournament after connecting on a program-tying seven three-point field goals in the two-point overtime championship win.
The game figures to be a defensive battle between Eastern, ranked fifth in scoring defense (49.3) and Tufts, ranked first (47.1). Eastern is also ranked first nationally in three-point field goal defense (20.8) and fourth in rebounding margin (+12.0).
In the regular-season loss to Tufts, Eastern used a 16-2 run to pull to within a point five minutes into the second half. In that game, the Jumbos outscored Eastern nearly 2-to-1 in the paint and 11-2 off the bench. Nappi led Eastern with 13 points but missed 12 of 16 field goals.
With two wins thus far, Eastern moved over the .500 mark (8-7) in NCAA play under Bierly. Five of the team’s victories came in 2003 when the Warriors won a program-record 28 games and reached the national championship game.