Sunday, March 26, 2000

NKU wins its first national championship




BY NEIL SCHMIDT and CINDY SCHROEDER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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NKU players celebrate.
(AP photo)
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        PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Nineteen years ago, facing a massive budget crisis, Northern Kentucky University officials nearly killed off their athletic program. Saturday, the region gave thanks that it didn't.

        The NKU women's basketball team rallied for a 71-62 overtime triumph over North Dakota State in the NCAA Division II championship game, delivering the first national title in school history.

        “This university has got a lot of heart, and these kids showed that today,” said Dr. James Votruba, NKU's president. “This is a historic moment for our university.”

        Nancy Winstel, who played on NKU's first women's basketball team 25 years ago, coached the Norse to an unlikely championship. Devoid of seniors in their nine-player rotation, they rallied from second-half deficits in all five tournament games.

        “Northern Kentucky needed a national champion,” Ms. Winstel said. “This is a gift to the Northern Kentucky community and the university from our team. I'm so proud we could deliver this.”

        Students in NKU's residential village erupted in cheers at the game's final buzzer.

        “When I first came here, they always talked about the men's teams,” said Louisville freshman Shalitta Green. “But it's the women who gave us something to brag about.”

        As the final seconds of the game elapsed, an exuberant Halse “Zim” Baloyi, pumped his fist into the air in NKU's Kentucky Hall TV room.

        “It really doesn't seem like women's basketball gets too much attention,” said the 21-year-old senior from Zimbabwe. “This should bring them some recognition.”

        A reception will be held for the Norse at 11 a.m. today at Regents Hall.

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