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Pride earn bid in WNIT, Set to face Penn State

By Max Sass, Sports Editor

The Pride women's basketball team waited until late Sunday night to hear that they would have a chance to get its twentieth win of the season in the Women's NIT tournament. The Pride opens the WNIT at Penn State University Thursday night.

"This is fantastic opportunity for our program to get into postseason play," head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said. "With such a young crew, this is invaluable experience for the team which can help us now and in the future."

The Pride will attempt to reach 20 wins for the first time since 2006-07, which is also the last year the team played in a national postseason tournament.

Kilburn-Steveskey is in her fourth year of coaching the team, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament by Virginia Commonwealth University. "We are already past that loss," she said, "but yet we have learned a lot from that game and about our selves."

Penn State had a 17-13 record on the season. Tyra Grant and Alex Bentley who average 19.1 and 11.8 points per game, respectively, lead Penn State. "We must slow them down in transition," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "We can't afford to give up easy baskets. We must also contain the two best players, Grant and Bentley, they are the pulse of the team.

Hofstra is led by freshman forward Shante Evans who led the team in both points and rebounds per game this season (13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds). She is complimented by senior center Jess Fuller (9.1 points per game) who is also the schools all-time leader in blocked shots. "Rebound and defense," Kilburn-Steveskey added, would be important parts of the matchup.

The Pride applied for postseason play with hopes of the WNIT but also had backup plans in place, so Sunday night was a nerve-racking time for the team and its coach. "I was falling in and out of sleep since we didn't get the call," said Kilburn-Steveskey, "but when I received the email from our athletic director Jack Hayes I was ecstatic and very proud of my team."

Sophomore guard Candice Bellocchio was injured early in the CAA Tournament and the team's assist leader is still in question for Thursday. "Candice is feeling better and getting some minutes here and there," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "It will be a game time decision."

If the Pride can beat the Nittany Lions they will face the winner of St. Joseph's and Virginia Commonwealth. The Pride is not looking too far ahead though. "We are ready to compete hard and get another chance to get a win," said Kilburn-Steveskey.

Senior center Jess Fuller (43) shoots over a Delaware defender. Fuller and the Pride earned a bid in the WNIT and will face Penn State Thursday night. (Sean M. Gates/ The Chronicle)

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