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The Red River Athletic Conference Champions

SAN ANTONIO – Due to the pandemic, the Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) Saints women’s basketball team did not participate in the 2020-2021 season. This year the team came back to prove that they were the best team in their conference. 

The preseason rankings for the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) had the Saints ranked number two. After tackling the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) top 25-ranked teams, OLLU started the preseason with a 3-9 record.  

After their first conference win against Huston-Tillotson University (HTU), the Saints fell to Saint Ambrose University. From that point on, the Saints would not lose another regular-season game.  

Under the direction of first-year Head Coach Jillian Flores Bennett and second-year Assistant Coach Tommy Turgeon, the women would go on a magical 13-game winning streak.  

Due to COVID-19, the 2020-2021 season was the first time in OLLU’s history since beginning competing in 2009-2010, that the Saints would miss the RRAC Championship Tournament.  

This year the saints came back to complete an undefeated RRAC regular season with a 14-0 record, going on to win the postseason tournament by defeating Louisiana State University in Shreveport (LSUS) in the championship game 65-57 on March 1. 

As the conference champions, the Saints received an automatic bid to the 41st annual NAIA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Tournament. Making it the 10th time OLLU has made a trip to Nationals. 

As the 14th seed in the NAIA National Tournament on March 11, the OLLU women’s basketball team lost to the 3rd seed Wayland Baptist University (WBU) 89-68 in the Duer Bracket of the NAIA National Championship Opening Round in Plainview, Texas.  

OLLU’s national run was cut short, but they did prove this year that they were the best in the conference, a tribute to the coaching and the play from the tremendous talent and skill on the team. 

For the Saints, Senior Guard Keviona Barber was named RRAC Player of the Year, All America Honorable Mention, and member of the All-Conference First Team. Barber averaged a team-high 17.3 points per game during the regular season.   

Junior Guard Natalia Trevino was awarded the RRAC MVP award for her play throughout the postseason tournament, where she averaged 19.3 points per game and had a 49.5 shooting percentage.  

Also, for the Saints, Senior Forward Emiko Hemphill , Sophomore Guard Cormia Lewis and Junior Center Makayla White were selected to the All-Conference Honorable Mention Team. 

In her first year as head coach and first, with OLLU, Bennett was named Coach of the Year and led the team to a 20-11 overall record. 

Bennett left Iowa Western in 2021 as the assistant coach to become OLLU’s head coach during the 2021-2022 season, after the one season with the saints. She has accepted a head coaching job back at Iowa Western College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Bennett will take over the program vacated by Lindsey Vande Hoeff, who announced her retirement on March 7.

For this team, the pandemics’ unfortunate effect on the 2020-2021 season, proved to be some type of inspiration for an incredible 2021-2022 season for the OLLU Saints women’s basketball team.  

Photo Credited to: OLLU Saints Athletic Page

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