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Ex-Kittanning forward closes out RMU career in NCAA Tournament

| Friday, March 21, 2014, 1:21 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Cornell University athletics
Nolan Cressler and his brother, Drew, both Plum graduates, are playing on the same team during this summer’s Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League.

Britta Emberg's college basketball career has had a tough final season, but it will come to an end on her sport's big stage.

Emberg, a Kittanning grad and senior forward on the Robert Morris women's basketball team, will join her teammates in the Colonials' first NCAA Tournament game since 2008 when they face No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the first round at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Toledo, Ohio.

After having a regular role in the Colonials' rotation earlier in her career, Emberg has appeared in only three games this season after recovering from major knee surgery during the offseason. In spite of the limited on-court role, Emberg is excited that her career will end with her first Northeast Conference title and first NCAA Tournament experience.

“Coming from a small school like Kittanning to go to a Division I program doesn't happen very often,” Emberg said. “To go to NCAAs and get a (NEC championship) ring my senior year, I'm so happy.”

The announcement of the NCAA pairings Monday night was a nervous time for Emberg and her teammates. As a 21-11 team coming from a small conference, Robert Morris expected to draw a low seed and a difficult opponent.

The Colonials avoided perennial powerhouse and No. 1-ranked Connecticut in the first matchup announced, but their draw didn't improve too much by being paired with the Fighting Irish, who are ranked No. 2 with a 32-0 record.

“We expected UConn, and I know some of us kind of wanted them to have that experience of playing No. 1. We were real anxious to see who we got when it wasn't them,” Emberg said. “It was surreal at first, the whole experience. Those selection shows are the kind of thing I used to watch on TV and fill out my own bracket. I never thought I'd be a part of one.”

After spending much of the early part of this season continuing to rehabilitate her knee, Emberg finally saw her first game action Jan. 13, when she scored two points in two minutes against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Emberg says her knee is 100 percent, and on a Robert Morris team that has relied heavily on contributions from underclassmen, she's been doing what she can to help her team during this run.

“It's hard to jump back in midway through the season, but I've really tried to help use my experience to push these girls,” Emberg said. “Most of our girls are freshmen or sophomores, and they've done a tremendous job of picking things up and playing well. I couldn't be more proud of them.”

Barring one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history — a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed once in men or women — Saturday will be Emberg's final game in a Robert Morris uniform.

Regardless of the outcome, and regardless of whether or not she plays, the psychology major from Kittanning is happy to go out with her team on top.

“These four years have been incredible,” she said. “To be surrounded by the teammates I've had these four years and to get to play high-level basketball, I'm so glad I took this opportunity.”

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