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The Tigers (11-6, 6-2 MSC) will play St. Catharine (8-9, 2-6) noon Saturday at Toyota Stadium. The second place finish is the highest GC has finished in Castleman's tenure. The team has had a steady progression the past three seasons - it finished fourth in 2008, third in 2009 and now second.
Castleman knew the 6-2 record would be good enough for no worse than third place. However, University of the Cumberlands struggled down the stretch - losing two straight - giving GC second place.
"I was shocked," Castleman said of the Patriots recent skid. "But, I think it shows that one of the hardest challenges at this time of the season is keeping your players focused. We've been going about seven days a week since August. It's stressful. Then add school work and social life and it's hard to keep the players' heads in it."
UC lost to West Virginia Tech, which then turned around and gave the Tigers a game this past Wednesday. Then Cumberlands lost to Shawnee. All of which makes Castleman happy with her decision to let her players have a break.
"I really think the biggest thing I did was give them four days off this past week," the coach said. "In the past three years I've seen them slump and get burnt out. They need time for a mental vacation."
She hopes her players are ready and refocused heading into the week of training leading up to the conference tournament. This past season, GC advanced to the finals and took national power Lindsey Wilson to a shoot out before losing.
It is a game that has motivated her team all year long. If the Tigers beat St. Catharine it would advance to the semifinals against the winner of Rio Grande and Cumberlands.
The other side of the bracket has LWC facing the winner of the play in game between Pikeville and West Virginia Tech. The winner of that would advance to face the winner of Shawnee State and Campbellsville in the semifinals.
Semifinal and final rounds are played Nov. 10 and 11 at Rio Grande. GC's semifinal game would be at 2:30 p.m. with the finals set for 5 p.m.