Augustana women's basketball prepares for big challenge at Division II NCAA tournament

Vikings take on No. 18 Missouri Southern, hoping to send coach Dave Krauth out on a high note

Augustana's Lauren Sees (22) makes a move while Northern State's Morgan Fiedler defends during an NSIC tournament game on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

SIOUX FALLS — The Augustana women's basketball team began the season with two important goals: End a four-year drought of missing the Division II NCAA tournament and send retiring legendary coach Dave Krauth out with a memorable last hurrah.

They've accomplished both. The Vikings qualified for the tournament, as the 6th-seed in the Central Region, and will face No. 18 Missouri Southern State of the MIAA on Friday for a noon tip-off in Duluth. And at 25-5, they've made an emotional season an enjoyable one for Krauth as he's counted down the last days of a historic career.

But now it's win or go home. The end is nearing for Krauth, but the NCAA tournament experience is just beginning for a group of players who are going for the first time.

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"We're just so excited," said forward Michaela Jewett. "It's been five years since this program has been to the NCAA tournament, so we don't know what to expect, and that's part of the excitement. It's do or die. We're happy we're going to Duluth. We know that gym, and we're happy to be playing a new team that we haven't played before. It's gonna be fun."

The last time the Vikings went to the regional was in 2017-18. None of the current players were on that squad, which won 29 games, hosted the regional, and fell one win short of the Elite Eight. This is also the 10-year anniversary of the only Vikings team to win a regional, the 2012-13 squad that advanced to San Antonio and the Final Four.


Augustana coach Dave Krauth watches his team play against Minnesota Duluth in the NSIC tournament, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

Krauth says he sees parallels with this team and the one that came two wins from a national championship, but they've got a major challenge in front of them. Missouri Southern is playing well as anyone in the country. The third-seeded Lions just won the MIAA tournament to jump four spots in the region. At 27-6 they're coming in with a six-game winning streak and a resume full of impressive wins. They beat No. 7 Nebraska-Kearney and No. 10 Central Missouri back-to-back to win their conference tournament, they beat regional host Minnesota Duluth back in November (the Vikings have also beaten UMD), and the Lions opened the season with an overtime loss to Division I Wichita State.

"They're red hot," said Krauth, who is taking the Vikings to the NCAA tournament for the 15th time in 34 seasons as coach. "You take a look at their schedule and they've had a great year and they capped it with a great run in their conference tournament. They're just really talented."

Lions point guard Lacy Stokes is the player that's clearly most caught the Vikings' attention. She leads MSSU in scoring (16.6 points per game), leads the MIAA in assists (5.2) and is third in steals (2.5). The rest of the Lions lineup is fairly balanced, with five more players averaging at least 6.7 points per game. Madi Stokes, a 6-foot-3 center, is a factor in the paint, averaging 8.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.

But the Vikings are not a team just happy to be in Duluth. They have in Aislinn Duffy one of the most versatile players in Division II, and Duffy is in her last season and her first NCAA tournament. The 6-foot post from Rapid City is determined to play her best basketball this weekend, both to put an exclamation point on the end of her own career, and to make sure her team extends the career of their coach as long as they can.

"I've never been on this stage and I'm so excited for it," Duffy said. "Keeping our composure and confidence is gonna be huge. We have to make sure we don't make too much of it being the regional tournament and treat it like another game. If we play like we're capable of we can make a run."

Duffy, the NSIC South player of the year, has capped an incredible career with another ridiculously good season. She leads the Vikings in scoring (17.0), rebounds (8.6) and assists (3.9) while shooting .518 from the floor and .418 from 3-point range. Lauren Sees (15.0 points), Jewett (12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds), Jennifer Aadland (9.9 points, 5.7 rebounds) Aby Phipps (7.9 points, 4.4 rebounds) and defensive specialist Kenzie Rensch (2.9 steals in only 17 minutes per game) make up a supporting cast that can keep up with anyone. And Krauth is happy they finally get this opportunity.

Augustana's Aislinn Duffy is the NSIC South Division player of the year.
Josh Jurgens/Augustana athletics

"I really am happy for them," he said. "It's just felt like, in recent years, especially with all the COVID stuff, there's been so many disruptions and unpredictability. They've been through a lot. It's been nice to get through a whole season and put it together. They're not the most talented team we've ever had but when you put the parts together it's a very good team that's learned to play together."

And yes, the fact that a loss will end Krauth's brilliant career is a driving force for the Vikings. The coach himself seems at peace with it, and aside from a few jokes here and there at practice, has barely mentioned it. But he says he's aware that the players are motivated to win for him, and admits that's meaningful to him.


For the players, it's more than that.

"He's given so much to this program," said Sees. "That motivates us going into this tournament and it's motivated us all season. We just want to give him all we can and play the best we possibly can."

Adds Duffy: "From the beginning we said that we were doing this season for Coach. We want him to remember our team as one of his favorite teams, so with that we've wanted to go as far as we can."

Division II Central Region Tournament
in Duluth
Noon: No. 6 Augustana vs. No. 3 Missouri Southern State
2:30 p.m: No. 7 Pittsburg State vs. No. 2 Nebraska-Kearney
5 p.m: No. 8 Southern Nazarene vs. No. 1 Minnesota Duluth
7:30 p.m: No. 5 MSU-Mankato vs. No. 4 Central Missouri

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, began a long career in amateur baseball and started working as a sports freelancer. Zimmer was hired as a sport reporter at the Argus Leader in 2004, where he covered Sioux Falls high schools and colleges before moving to the South Dakota State University beat in 2014.
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