BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Winter sports teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) have been busy this March with three basketball teams, three hockey teams, and representatives from 14 indoor track and field programs participating in NCAA postseason competitions. Three teams - St. Thomas women's basketball and the women's hockey teams from St. Thomas and Hamline - extended their seasons with NCAA Tournament victories and are now preparing for the national semifinals this coming weekend. With the 2019 NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Championships on the horizon next week, 21 more student-athletes from seven MIAC programs are set to bask in the national spotlight as well.
Two MIAC men's basketball teams earned berths in the 2019 NCAA Division III Tournament with conference playoff champion Saint John's (23-5) securing the league's automatic qualifier and regular season conference champion St. Thomas (24-5) snagging an at-large berth into the "Big Dance." The Johnnies fell to Northwestern-St. Paul in the first round of the tournament, while the Tommies won two games - including a 12-point upset victory over defending national champion Nebraska-Wesleyan on the Prairie Wolves' home court - before coming up short against Guilford in the Sweet 16 last Friday.
The MIAC regular season and playoff champion St. Thomas Tommies (30-1) punched their tickets to the Final Four over the weekend. After defeating two-time defending national champion Amherst last Friday and 2018 Final Four participant Wartburg last Saturday, the Tommies will head to Salem, Va. for a March 15 matchup with last year's national runner-up, Bowdoin College (30-1). It will be the team's third Final Four appearance in the last eight seasons and the program's seventh since 1991. Tipoff is set for 4:00 p.m. CDT on Friday.
MIAC regular season and playoff champion Augsburg (21-4-3) saw its season end in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday night, as the Auggies fell to St. Norbert College, 4-3, in overtime during the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Tournament. Augsburg has drawn the Green Knights in the first round of the national tournament each of the last four years. It was the second consecutive overtime game for the conference champs, who defeated Saint John's, 2-1, in a four-overtime thriller back on March 2 to secure the program's MIAC-record fourth consecutive playoff title.
For the first time ever, a MIAC women's hockey team is guaranteed to be playing for a national championship. No. 1-ranked St. Thomas (25-1-2) and No. 4-ranked Hamline (22-3-3) both advanced to the semifinal round, setting up the fourth meeting in 29 days between the two MIAC powerhouses. Both the Tommies and Pipers won their quarterfinal matchups last Saturday afternoon, as St. Thomas topped Wis.-Eau Claire, 4-3, while Hamline defeated Wis.-River Falls, 5-1. Hamline is now headed to its second straight Frozen Four, having defeated Plattsburgh State in the 2018 third-place game by a margin of 5-4 in overtime after falling to eventual champion Norwich in the semifinals. St. Thomas is back in the Frozen Four for the second time in school history. The Toms also reached the semifinals in 2014. Game times for Friday's Frozen Four matchups feature Adrian (23-4-2) versus Plattsburgh State (27-2-0) at 3:00 p.m., followed by St. Thomas hosting Hamline at 7:00 p.m. CDT. St. Thomas has been selected to host the entire Frozen Four on its home ice in Mendota Heights, Minn. The 2019 NCAA Division III National Championship Game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CDT on Saturday. The MIAC squad that does not advance to the title contest will play in the third-place game at 3:00 p.m. CDT on Saturday.
Men's Indoor Track & Field
St. Thomas senior thrower Eric Holst won the national championship in the weight throw last Friday night at the 2019 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships in Boston, Mass. with a heave of 58-7 1/4 - fourth-best in NCAA Division III history. Holst became the Tommies' first indoor champion since Mike Hutton won the 800 meters in 2012 and UST's first field athlete to win an indoor national title since Leonard Jones won the high, long, and triple jumps in 1994. He was also among 10 men's competitors from the MIAC to earn All-America status by virtue of placing among the nation's top-eight participants in their respective events. St. Thomas led all MIAC teams with a 12th-place finish overall, followed by Bethel, Carleton, St. Olaf, and Hamline - all of whom finished among the top 60 teams in the nation.
Women's Indoor Track & Field
Macalester senior runner Phoebe Aguiar won the national championship in the 800 meters, crossing the finish line in 2:07.50 - more than 3.5 seconds ahead of the next-closest competitor on Saturday afternoon. The MIAC and Central Region Women's Track Athlete of the Year is Macalester's first national champion in track and field since Janis Rider won the javelin in 1988 and the program's first national champ in an indoor running event since Mary Schlick and Julia Kirtland won the 1500 and 3000 meters, respectively, in 1987. Aguiar was among seven women from the MIAC to receive All-America honors at the national meet. Macalester finished 20th overall, followed by Bethel, St. Thomas, and Hamline.
Men's Swimming & Diving
The 2019 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships will be held March 20-23 at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, N.C. The MIAC has qualified five men's swimmers and one diver to compete in a total of eight events at the 2019 Championships. Gustavus and Macalester will represent the conference with selected competitors at the meet.
Women's Swimming & Diving
Fourteen women representing five MIAC programs earned invitations to the 2019 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships, with one additional competitor landing a spot as an alternate. MIAC swimmers qualified in 12 different events for the national meet, with swimmers from Carleton, Gustavus, St. Catherine, St. Olaf, and St. Thomas set to represent the conference next week.