WINONA, Minn. - Riding a 20-game winning streak and ranked first in the latest NCAA II Central Region rankings, Winona State had a lot to win...and lose in the NSIC Tournament.
The Warriors were poised to be a team competing for the tourney championship and the automatic NCAA tournament berth that comes with it.
Things originally didn't go as planned. In their opening game of the tournament, Winona State lost to U-Mary 10-8.
"I mean we were stunned in the first game. It was just something we weren't expecting," said Warriors senior Jenny Nelson.
Winona State bounced back in the biggest of ways. They won six games over the following two days, including four consecutive victories on the final day. The Warriors captured the fifth NSIC Tournament Championship in program history.
"What it says is that we can get knocked back, knocked down and answer right back," said Winona State junior Morgan Lintz. "We became angry, hungry and we came right back and attacked the ball and just worked our way back one game at a time."
"A lot of grit. A lot of resilience. They've shown that all year long," said Warriors head coach Greg Jones. "We've preached mental toughness in this program, we preach passion and pride every day. It's fun to actually see it play out in front of you."
On Wednesday, Winona State rose to number-ten in the nation in the final NFCA Division II Top-25 poll for the regular season.
Winona State features a great balance of hitting (Warriors led the NSIC in batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, hits per game, runs scored per game), pitching (tops in the NSIC in earned run average and fewest walks allowed per game), and defense (third in the league in fielding percentage).
"Pitching, defense, and offense. You want to be good in all three aspects. And the you've got to be lucky and you've got to be clutch. And this team has been all of the above all year long," said Jones.
"We've had a lot of good teams over the years, we've been a great program. But this is the most balanced team we've ever had."
Winona State opens up against Southern Arkansas Friday at 1:00 p.m. Also participating in the double-elimination regional hosted by the Warriors at Alumni Field will be Augustana and Missouri Western State.