The UC Clermont Lady Cougars concluded a successful regular season with a record of 26-12, a Ohio Collegiate Athletic Conference title and were the No. 5-ranked team in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
All that success translated to a fifth-straight appearance in the USCAA National Championship Tournament on the campus of Penn State Fayette in Uniontown, Penn. being held March 6-10.
The Lady Cougars have six players from Clermont County, led by sisters Cayla Marisa Stutz, Felicity-Franklin graduates.
“Marisa was the Player of the Year in the conference this year and Cayla was last year,” head coach Mike Matthews said. “Cayla is out with a torn ACL. She was our leader scorer from last year and preseason All-American.
“Marisa got voted All-American this year, so she stepped out of the shadow of her sister and improved her play. In the last month, Marisa had 10 double-doubles and one triple-double. The triple-double was one assist away from getting a quadruple-double.”
Besides the Stutzs, Dawn Rapp (Clermont Northeastern), Alex Junker (Milford), Tess Jenike (Bethel) and Brooke Catauro (Goshen) are Clermont County products.
The Lady Cougars are a six seed in the USCAA Tournament and will face off with Spalding University, the 11 seed, in the first round on Wednesday, March 7 at 9:30 p.m.
The USCAA Tournament features 16 teams from around the country vying for the title of national champion. The tournament only spans four days, March 7-10, but Matthews believes his team is up to the challenge.
“This is our fifth year, but with our schedule, we have a lot of weekends when we play back-to-back and there were some where we played three games in a row,” Matthews explained. “I use those as a warm-up for the national tournament to see how we react. It’s the same for everyone, so everyone is going to have to win four games to win it.
“It does take a lot out of you with so much emotion and energy being spent, so we will try to keep a good routine. I think we have a good chance to win it this year.”
The Lady Cougars will have one of their best shots to take home the hardware this year thanks to a critically acclaimed roster.
At the OCAC banquet last week, Marisa Stutz and Ashley Keith (Clark Montessori) were named to the First Team All-Conference and Portia Cochrum (Western Hills) was named to the Second Team. Regan Hauke was an Honorable Mention.
Marisa Stutz and Coach Matthews took home the awards for Player and Coach of the Year.
“I think it’s really a coaching staff award,” Matthews said of his honor. “It’s just me and (assistant coach Rick Hosea), so we have to work really hard. We don’t have a big staff so I can never take credit for it myself. It’s a staff award.”
Matthews said that the public can keep up with how the Lady Cougars are doing by checking out the official website of the tournament, theuscaa.com.
On the tournament’s website, you can check in to see how the Lady Cougars are doing as game scores will be updated every day. You can also live stream the teams’ games.