Women’s basketball looks to continue winning streak at nationals


A Wolf Pack basketball player shoots a jump shot at team practice on March 5. The Loyola Women’s basketball team earned a spot in the NAIA national championships after recording their eighth straight 20-win season. Photo credit: Shadera Moore

Jabez Berniard

Loyola’s women’s basketball team is feeling confident after winning the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament title and securing its place in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship Tournament.

The road to the national championship was bumpy at times, including mandated quarantines and games canceled amid COVID-19 outbreaks. However, Wolf Pack head coach Kellie Kennedy said she’s proud of the way her team handled the adversity.

“After we got quarantined the first time we’ve been pretty good since then,” said Kennedy. “The team has been doing a good job at doing the things they need to stay safe. We’ve been able to test, practice, play and really get into the groove of it.”

The Wolf Pack earned an automatic bid to the national championship following a first place finish in the SSAC tournament. Loyola dominated the court throughout the conference tournament, winning every game by double digits.

Sophomore Sandra Cannady, who transferred to Loyola this year from Sam Houston State University, said she’s glad to be playing with the Wolf Pack. Cannady won the SSAC conference tournament Most Valuable Player award and she was later named the SSAC Newcomer of the Year.

“I was nervous at first but when I got here the team was really welcoming,” said Cannady. “Being able to win a ring my first year here and being MVP is a really big accomplishment. I’m really excited to finish the year.”

Due to safety precautions, the Wolf Pack was only able to play against teams in its conference or within close proximity. The national tournament will provide an opportunity to see how the team matches up against opponents from different regions.

Coach Kennedy said that while this will be an adjustment for the team, she believes they are all up for the challenge.

“Sometimes you’re at the end of the year and it’s kind of like ‘Oh God, it’s been a long year’, but it’s not as long this year. I feel like our team is very motivated and ready to play and ready to continue playing,” said Kennedy.

Since Jan. 13, the team has been ranked in every NAIA Top 25 Poll. The team’s most recent conference victory against Middle Georgia State marked the team’s fifteenth straight win of the season.

As they approach the tournament, the team is aiming to continue that winning streak.

“Luckily for us we can just be who we are,” said Kennedy. “Who we have been has gotten us to the point we’ve gotten to and that 20-1. If we just continue to be who we are, if everybody does their job, continues to work as hard as we have, and plays together, I know we’ll be fine.”

The Wolf Pack were awarded the nineteenth overall seed in the NAIA National Tournament. They will play the 8-7 Langston University Lions in Park City, Kansas March 12.

“I’m ready and I’m excited to play. I’m ready to win another ring. As a team I think we can do that,” said Cannady.