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WVIAC kicks off tournament season

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008

March Madness gets its usual jump on the month with the start of postseason basketball tournaments in the lower divisions this week.

The NCAA Division II West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is the first league with district teams to open tournament play, with the women's field in action Monday night with seven first-round games, including two involving district teams.

Eighth-seeded Pitt-Johnstown played host to ninth-seeded Wheeling Jesuit in a battle of local schools from neighboring states. Second-seeded West Liberty State, the other district team, was home to 15th-seeded Ohio Valley.

The WVIAC men's tournament will get under way tonight with seven first-round games as well.

Pitt-Johnstown men's coach Bob Rukavina, who recorded his 300th career victory Thursday night, when the Mountain Cats defeated Salem International, 83-67, has led UPJ (20-6, 17-3) to a first-round bye after it won the regular-season championship.

Games tonight involving district teams find fourth-seeded West Liberty State (21-5, 15-5) playing host to 13th-seeded Ohio Valley (7-20, 6-14), and 11th-seeded Wheeling Jesuit (13-14, 8-12) traveling to sixth-seeded Fairmont State (18-9, 12-8).

Pitt-Johnstown opens Wednesday at home against the winner of a first-round game between eighth-seeded Davis & Elkins (13-14, 9-11) vs. ninth-seeded Concord (14-13, 9-11).

Rukavina, a native of Verona, is 300-210 in 19 seasons as coach of Pitt-Johnstown and CCAC-South. He has led Pitt-Johnstown to its only two NCAA Division II Tournament appearance in back-to-back seasons (1997 and '98) while the program was an independent. His 1997 squad posted a school-best 24-5 record.

Pitt-Johnstown joined the WVIAC in 2006 and is competing in its first season in the league.

In other first-round tournament games tonight involving district men's teams, Pitt-Greensburg (20-5, 14-4) plays host to Penn State-Altoona (10-15, 7-11) and La Roche (14-11, 9-9) meets visiting Medaille (23-2, 17-1), the top-seeded team, in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference; Washington & Jefferson (12-13, 8-4) is home to Thiel (10-14, 4-8), Westminster, Pa. (7-18, 5-7) welcomes Thomas More (10-15, 5-7) and Grove City (16-8, 9-3) entertains Waynesburg (8-16, 2-10) in the Presidents' Athletic Conference; Allegheny (11-4, 6-9) plays at Wittenberg (16-9, 12-4) in the North Coast Athletic Conference.

All three leagues compete in NCAA Division III.

Women's first-round tournament games tonight involving district teams find La Roche (14-11, 9-9) at Penn State-Behrend (13-12, 11-7) and Penn State-Altoona (10-15, 7-11) at Pitt-Greensburg (20-5, 14-4) in the AMCC; Chatham (10-15, 5-9) at Westminster (Pa.) (15-10, 7-7), Grove City (10-15, 5-9) at Bethany (W.Va.) (15-10, 10-4), Thiel (7-17, 4-10) at Washington & Jefferson (19-6, 11-3) and Waynesburg (1-24, 0-14) at top-seeded Thomas More (25-0, 14-0) in the PAC; and Allegheny (11-14, 8-8) at Denison (15-10, 11-5) in the NCAC.

PSNK heads north

Penn State-New Kensington, ranked No. 1 in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, and No. 7 Penn State-DuBois head to South Portland, Maine, today to open play Thursday in the new independent organization's postseason men's basketball tournament.

Penn State-New Kensington (19-3) is the top-seeded team and will face eighth-seeded Cincinnati-Clermont in the first round on Thursday. No. 7 Penn State-DuBois (14-11, 11-6) meets host Southern Maine Community College, the second-seeded team.

Eight teams will participate in the three-day tournament. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday.

The USCAA, established in 2001, is an organization for schools with enrollments of less than 1,500. It sponsors 11 national championship tournaments in men's and women's sports.

District musings

The Allegheny softball team has been picked to repeat as champion of the North Coast Athletic Conference in a preseason poll of the league's coaches. Allegheny advanced to the NCAA Division III regionals last season, going 1-2 in the double-elimination tournament. ... The Penn State-Behrend men's and women's NCAA Division III swimming and diving teams each won their second consecutive league title by finishing in first place at the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championships. ... Following an 0-11 dual-meet season, Waynesburg has changed coaches, hiring former Pitt wrestler Ron Headlee, who posted a nine-year record of 111-25-1 at Jefferson-Morgan High School.

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