MOUNT GREENWOOD — St. Xavier University lost in the title game of the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship Tuesday night 66-52 to returning champion Marian University.
The No. 3-ranked women’s basketball team ended its season with 34 overall wins — the best ever for the school at 3700 W. 103rd St. in Mount Greenwood. Junior center Brittany Collins and junior guard Kara Krolicki were both named to the five-player All-Tournament First Team.
Krolicki was also named the 2017 NAIA Division II National Player of the Year, the first-ever individual honor for St. Xavier's 17-year-old program.
Hallberg, 73, returned to St. Xavier in 2000 to start a women's basketball program at the school on the Far Southwest Side. It had been the first university to give him a coaching job, and he also had served as its first athletic director.
"They never had women's basketball, because they had the worst gym in America," said Hallberg, whose 46-year coaching career also includes stints coaching NCAA men's basketball teams at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago State University.
St. Xavier opened the Shannon Center in 1999, and university administrators were eager to show off their new athletic facility. The women's basketball program began to do just that, Hallberg said.
Great season Lady Cougars!— SXU Men's Hoops (@SXUMensHoops) March 15, 2017
Fan support leading up to the team's historic first appearance in the title game was great, according to Casey McMahon, a junior shooting guard. In fact, fans surprised the team by decorating the interior of their bus Tuesday afternoon.
McMahon also credited the championship run to the dedication of players throughout the season. This included working hard every day in practice, as well as players working out on their own both before and after team drills.
"We have a really fun group of girls that are really hard working," she said.