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Wesleyan women approach 20th win

With one regular season game left to play, the Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball team is in search of its 20th win of the season.

The Tigers had their first chance to reach the 20-game win mark Wednesday night against Northwestern but fell to the Red Raiders 87-81 at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

"That was a big one to take the pressure off, but now all we can do is look forward to Saturday," DWU forward Kim Johnson said. "It's do or die time, and we have to beat Briar Cliff."

DWU ends its regular season at home against Briar Cliff University at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

The last time the DWU women's program won 20 games was in the 2003-04 season, when it won 28 games and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA national tournament.

That season was the third straight year DWU reached the national tournament. In 2001-2002, the Tigers won a school-record 32 games. DWU won 25 games and finished in second place at the national tournament in the 2002-03 season.

Those three years are the only time in program history the Tigers have won 20 games.

"It was one of our goals this year to get 20 wins," DWU guard Celeste Beck said. "We haven't won 20 games here in a while, so it would be a pretty good accomplishment,"

At the helm during the Tigers' three-year run was Kevin Lein. In six years as the head women's basketball coach at DWU, Lein won 113 and lost 84.

His 113 wins and win percentage of 57.4 ranks first all time among DWU coaches. The first two years of Lein's DWU career were not much different than current DWU coach Jason Christensen.

After two seasons, Lein's career record was 13-43. In comparison, Christensen was 22-40.

But now in his third season, Christensen and his Tigers are knocking at the door of the DWU 20-game win club.

"Our team has made big strides. At the college level, it seems like when you watch ESPN everyone wants to have that 20-win season," Christensen said. "I think our kids have had some opportunities that we let slip away, but it is important to me and important to the team to get to 20 games."

The 20-game win mark may also help push the DWU women into the NAIA tournament if they do not win the GPAC conference tournament.

The Tigers are currently tied for fifth place in the GPAC and have a conference record of 10-9.

"We can only control what we do on the basketball floor. If we get to 20 wins, 21 wins or stay at 19, I am still proud of the kids," Christensen said.