This is the 13th NCAA Tournament appearance for the Lakers and the third in as many years, which ties the program record for consecutive postseason trips. During the 2015-16 season, the Lakers made an improbable run to the Final Four as the Midwest Region seventh seed, taking down three nationally-ranked opponents, while the 2016-17 squad fell in the second-round last season to eventual National Champion Ashland.
Last weekend, the Lakers advanced to the GLIAC Championship game, where they eventually fell to No. 1 nationally and regionally ranked Ashland, after taking down Northern Michigan in the quarterfinals and Ferris State in the semifinals. Michigan Tech fell in the opening round of the conference tournament to the Bulldogs.
GVSU will enter the contest with a 25-6 overall record, while the Huskies will sport a 23-5 mark on the season. This will be the third time the Lakers and Huskies will play this season, with MTU holding a 2-0 advantage, including a slim overtime victory at the DeltaPlex Arena back in December, as well as a seven-point victory on their home court on Feb. 1.
The Lakers first opponent will be a tough one, as Michigan Tech sports an offense that is scoring 71.8 points per game and is one of the top shooting teams in the nation. The Huskies are draining 46.6 percent of their field goals, which ranks ninth in the country for Division II schools and 35.5 percent of their three-point attempts, which ranks 33rd overall.
Senior guards Brenna Heise and Kelli Guy lead that efficient offense, scoring 12.2 and 12 points per game, respectively. Heise is making nearly half of her shots, connecting at a 49 percent clip, while Guy is draining threes at a 41 percent clip. Heise is also big on the boards for the Huskies, pulling down 4.9 rebounds per game but is trailing teammate Elizabeth Kelliher for the team lead at 6.3 boards per contest. Kelliher, who is averaging 11.3 points, is also an efficient shooter, making 44.1 percent of her shots.
To combat the Huskies offensive attack, the Lakers will bring Division II's eighth-best scoring defense to play, as GVSU is allowing opponents to score just 55.2 points per game. The Lakers are limiting their opposition to just a 37.5 percent mark in field goal percentage, which is first in the GLIAC and 64th in the nation, and an even more impressive 26.5 percent clip from beyond the arc, a mark that is 13th best in the country. GVSU also commits just 14.1 personal fouls per game, the sixth lowest amount in Division II.
Offensively, the Lakers bring a balanced game to the court with three different starters putting in at least 11 points per game. Sophomore guard Jenn DeBoer leads the way with 12.3 points per contest while Cassidy Boensch and Natalie Koenig aren't far behind at 12 and 11.5 points per game, respectively.
DeBoer and Koenig have been deadly from beyond the arc this season, combining to drain 116 threes at a 36.1 percent clip. Boensch, who started the season as the first Laker off the bench, has taken advantage of her new starting role as of late. In her last six starts, the 6-4 center has averaged 20 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while collecting four double-doubles in that time. She is also the team leader in blocks with 53 so far this season. Fellow starters Korynn Hincka and Maddie Dailey are averaging 8.6 and 7.1 points per game, respectively, and have the ability to get hot at any time. Hincka poured in a career-high 19 points while pulling down 10 boards against Aquinas earlier this year for her second straight double-double and Dailey scored 17 points while going 5-for-6 from three in GVSU's conference championship game against Ashland.
Off the bench, Victoria Hedemark is scoring 3.6 points per game and leads the team with 53 steals in just under 20 minutes per game, while also ranking fifth on the squad with 37 assists. Megan Belke is playing just 14.1 minutes per game but is shooting 51 percent from the field and an even better 52 percent from three. Freshman Anja Smith and Emma Wright have also seen some minutes in significant games this season while Jenai LaPorte has also seen action in 19 games.
The winner of Friday's game will go on to face the winner of the matchup between No. 1 seed Ashland and No. 8 seed Hillsdale on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Midwest Regional Championship is set for Monday at 7 p.m.
— By Grand Valley State Athletic Department