By Matt Riedl, news editor
The Newman University women’s basketball team will travel to Lawrence on Dec. 9 to take on the University of Kansas Jayhawks at the storied Allen Fieldhouse.
The meeting will be the first between the two schools in any athletic competition, marking the first time an NU team has competed in “The Phog.”
“We get to go to basketball heaven,” Athletic Director Vic Trilli said. “The ladies on the team are going to remember this one years from now.”
The Lady Jets, who are coming off a successful season which included a first-ever NCAA tournament berth, will face one of their toughest challenges yet in the Jayhawks, Trilli said.
“I’m not going to treat it any differently than the game before,” Coach Darin Spence said. “When you’re an old dog like me that’s been around, you don’t worry about your record. You worry about getting better.”
The matchup is an addition to the women’s schedule. When KU Women’s Basketball Coach Bonnie Henrickson needed to fill another game, she decided to call upon Spence, who has led teams against the Jayhawks twice at New Mexico State University, winning once.
“He does a good job everywhere he’s been,” Henrickson said. “It should be a good matchup. We’ll be prepared.”
KU, who finished last season with a 21-13 record, is led by preseason All-Big 12 guard Angel Goodrich and All-Big 12 honorable mention, forward Carolyn Davis.
Henrickson said the Jayhawks do not underestimate their non-conference competition.
“We have a few unique challenges in our non-conference schedule ,” Henrickson said. “It’s an opportunity for us to play and get better.”
This will not be NU senior forward Anna Sonka’s first time playing Division 1 competition, as she previously played for the University of Toledo, which won the 2011 NIT championship. Sonka said playing D1 schools is beneficial in the long run.
“It makes you see there’s not that big of a difference between D1 and D2,” Sonka said. “It’s still basketball. The level is higher in D1 but everyone has the chance to be successful.”
Just as in previous years, interested students will be bussed up to Lawrence the day of the game. If fans are not able to make it up to Lawrence, the game will be streamed online on AT&T’s Jayhawk All-Access program for a fee.
KU sophomore Nikki Snyder, who attended her freshman year at NU, said it will be rewarding to see the Jets play in Lawrence.
“When I found out Newman was going to play in Allen Fieldhouse I was so excited,” Snyder said. “I miss all my friends at Newman so giving them a chance to come up to Lawrence is very exciting.”
The Lady Jets will be coming off a game against William Jewell College the day before in Liberty, Mo. Spence said the KU game will be physically demanding but rewarding for the players in the end.
“It’ll put our players up against some very tough odds,” Spence said. “It’s be a test for us to try to match up with the Big 12.”
This game is just another step to putting Newman on the rotation with Kansas’ “big three” schools, KU, Kansas State and Wichita State, Trilli said. He said the department is working on scheduling more games against Division 1 competition in the coming years, including a possible matchup between the men’s team and the Jayhawks.
“It’s a great opportunity to put our little school on the map,” Trilli said. “It gives us a chance to get our name out there.”