The UIndy Greyhounds — now sitting at an unbelievable 31-0 — are the No. 1 team in the nation according to the most recent NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. Senior righty Morgan Foley is leading the way. Foley is capping off an amazing career with her best season to date, as arguably the best pitcher in all of DII.
She entered this season with a remarkable career record of 100-23 and a 1.34 ERA. Foley improved her record to 23-0 on the season Tuesday night behind an 11-inning, 17-strikeout performance. Foley is one of only four pitchers in DII to break the 20-win barrier already this season. She has done it with a minuscule ERA of 0.65.
“It’s definitely a maturity thing,” Foley said of her improvement. “Having the hitters behind me gives me the confidence to throw and throw everything that I have. I have been working on a changeup for the past ten years that I have been throwing, and this year it is finally coming together. I finally have control of my changeup which is helping me a lot this season.”
And then there are those strikeouts.
Foley has become known as quite the strikeout artist. Currently, she leads the country with a 13.9 strikeout per seven rate. She had caught the nation’s attention on May 2, 2014 when she set the NCAA single-game mark with 30 strikeouts in a 13-inning, complete game victory. She broke the DI record (28), DII record (26) and DIII record (25) in that performance.
Foley was back at it on February 27 of this year.
That day, Foley hurled a seven-inning no-hitter, a terrific feat in its own right. Though Foley had thrown no-hitters before, she had never done it by striking out every batter she faced. In fact, no one in DII ever had. 21 outs. 21 strikeouts. Another DII record for the Strikeout Queen.
“That day was incredible,” Foley said of her record-setting no-hitter. “It was an awesome win for the team. My whole family came down to Tennessee to watch me play, I had my best friend from home that surprised me and my boyfriend from home so I had the whole crew there.
“I knew I had a lot, but I didn’t realize it. When I start to think about anything like that, I always tell myself that I’m going to jinx myself, so I try to stop myself from thinking about it before it starts.”
Foley came into 2016 a mere 378 strikeouts from becoming the DII all-time best strikeout artist. Now sitting at 272, she is only 106 from breaking the mark. Hannah Perryman is also chasing the record. Foley is rather familiar with Perryman as she pitches for GLVC rival Missouri-St. Louis, who currently is right behind UIndy sitting in second place in the conference.
“I don’t really think about the record, I’m really focused on getting the wins for my team and continuing this undefeated season,” Foley said. “[Perryman] is a phenomenal pitcher. Having someone like that challenges me. We both push each other and we’re both working towards the same goal at the end of beating that record. It makes it a great competition.”
Last season, UIndy rose to great heights. They put up 48 wins and made it to the World Series. They would defeat the eventual National Champions (North Georgia) in the first game before dropping the next two and ultimately ending their season. Foley and her teammates definitely took away some valuable lessons from the experience, and it set the tone for her senior season.
“How to stay calm under the pressure, that’s for sure,” Foley said of what she learned. “I worked three years to get there, it was always a dream to play at that Oklahoma field. The two games when we lost and knowing things didn’t go my way, I knew what I needed to work on that much harder this offseason to come back and make our trip back to the World Series that much better.
“I think the taste of being at the World Series last year, knowing we made it so far last year, just made us want to get back that much more and win it all that much more this year.”
The Greyhounds were poised to make their mark in the GLVC and get back to the NCAA playoffs. They never imagined that they would be sitting undefeated this late in the season. Now that it’s a reality, they won’t let it slip away so easily.
“Our main goal was to win the conference championship and get back to the World Series,” Foley said. “Of course we never talked about an undefeated season, it wasn’t a premeditated thing. Now that it’s going, it’s definitely our thought to keep it going.”
Women's basketball: UAA vs. LCU should be one for the ages
This coming Monday’s Women’s Basketball Championship Game will have two newcomers on display. The undefeated Lubbock Christian Lady Chaps will be taking on the University of Alaska Anchorage SeaWolves. The tipoff is at 3PM in Indianapolis, where they get to share the stage with the DI Women's Final Four.
“Part of me wanted to play [the championship] on that third day because we were hot,” UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy said of the week and half layoff awaiting the National Championship game. “Part of me is excited for our ladies because they get to be around elite programs -- the UConns, the teams out of the Pac-12, Syracuse. What an experience for our ladies to play on that stage."
UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy is coming off of his second consecutive West Region Coach of the Year Award. It’s a pretty easy choice when his SeaWolves broke the NCAA DII single-season wins record behind an amazing 38-2 record.
“I’m really proud,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had great senior leadership with our seven seniors this year. I think it’s a testament to our returning players coming back from last season’s upset in the first round being ranked No. 1 in the country. They’re a really hard working group that loves the game and loves each other.”
“You can have a great season and that could end in the blink of an eye,” McCarthy said about what his team learned after last season’s end. “You can be humbled immediately in March. Last year we didn’t talk about winning a national championship from day one. This year, from day one, our mission was to get to the national championship and win one for the state of Alaska. It’s pretty surreal, but this was our mission for us this year.”
This season, McCarthy — who has had Shaina Afoa as his top assistant for his entire four-year tenure — added UAA alum Alysa Horn to the coaching staff. Horn made an impression in her first season on the bench, becoming one of ten DII assistant coaches to make the WBCA Thirty under 30 list.
“She played on a lot of winning teams here,” McCarthy said of Horn. “She was great leader on those teams, and was very deserving of that award. I’m lucky to have Shaina Afoa who is also under 30 and could be on that list also. Alysa and Shaina for me have been critical to our success.”
They don’t have anyone in the nation’s top scorers, nor do they have anyone atop the leaderboard in rebounds. What UAA does have is a balanced attack, one that sees them scoring 80.4 points a night — good for ninth in the nation — while limiting opponents to 54.1 points a night, which is fourth best across the country.
“We have great depth,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had a different MVP in every tournament that we have played in. What makes us similar to LCU is that we also have diverse scoring. We have -- in my opinion -- a First Team All-American player in Megan Mullings. She doesn’t put up First Team All-American numbers because she made the sacrifice to play in a system that instead of going seven deep like other programs go, we go 11 people playing double-digit minutes.”
They do it by a fast paced attack and a little mayhem.
“'Mayhem' is learning lessons from losses,” McCarthy said. “It’s a brand of basketball that we play. It’s full court pressure all game long. We want to put pressure offensively and defensively on our opponents using our roster depth where we can play as unit as hard as we possibly can for 40 minutes. We create as much confusion and disorder as we can from a defensive standpoint to give ourselves opportunity in transition.”
Standing in front of their national title hopes is the undefeated LCU Lady Chaps. Head coach Steve Gomez stole the show this season en route to both the South Central Region and Ron Lenz NCAA DII Coach of the Year Award. His Lady Chaps enter the Monday’s title bout sitting at 34-0.
“We have a great deal of respect for them,” McCarthy said of LCU. “Anyone who doesn’t lose all year has been an extremely focused team. It’s hard to go undefeated regardless of your talent level, and that just means they didn’t have a slip up. They’re a very difficult matchup, especially at the Division II level because they have Division I size and length. Very well coached, a lot of discipline. We really respect that team, we know that we need to play our best game just to beat them.”
Much like UAA, LCU is impressive on both sides of the ball. They score 82.2 points a contest while only allowing 53.8 points a night. There margin of victory is the best in the nation at 28.4.
Two teams seemingly couldn't be more well-matched for an exciting finale to the Women's Basketball season. McCarthy knows that for UAA, there is a lot more at stake than simply a trophy to add to a collection.
“It would mean a lot to our program, but it would mean a lot more to our state,” McCarthy said. “It would be the first one ever at UAA as a team sport. We have a ton of support here from all over Alaska, and you know it’s such a big state. There are villages you can’t get to by roads, and basketball is part of the culture in those places. To win a national championship… it’s special in a lot of places, but it will be uniquely special here.”