The University of Texas-Tyler Patriots will take on Ashland University on Monday evening in the NCAA II women's basketball Elite 8. (UT-Tyler photo)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The University of Texas-Tyler is a newcomer to the postseason dance. But the Patriots have kept the music going all the way to the Elite Eight.

Playing in a city of 108,000 residents best known for producing roses, Patrick Mahomes, Earl Campbell and Johnny Manziel, this is just Tyler’s second year of Division II women’s basketball eligibility.

And now the Patriots (27-7) have the No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Ashland Eagles (34-0) in their sights. The two teams meet Monday at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Final Four on Wednesday night in St. Joseph.

Tyler coach Rebecca Alvidrez, in her second year leading the Patriots, has posted a 46-16 record, quickly turning around the program in the Lone Star Conference.

Before arriving at Tyler, Alvidrez compiled more than two decades on the sidelines, almost all as an assistant, at colleges in Texas, Colorado, Nebraska and Alaska.


In her most recent role as an assistant, Alvidrez spent four years as the associate women’s head coach at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas.

She assisted in the rise of a Ladyjacks’ program that culminated in a 47-9 overall record in the last two seasons in Nacogdoches and a trip to the NCAA Division I women’s tournament in 2020-21.

Tyler finished the regular season second in the league standings, and made their second consecutive LSC tournament semifinals appearance.

That work gave them their first NCAA South Central Regional Tournament invitation.

In the regional, the Patriots dispatched the top offense and conference runner-up from the RMAC in Colorado School of Mines. The Patriots then handled top-seeded Angelo State on its home floor to claim a spot in the regional tournament final.

In that final, the Patriots went to double overtime before dismissing Lubbock Christian and moving on to the Elite Eight.

Alvidrez knows the Patriots face a tough task against an Eagles’ program that has become a perennial national powerhouse.

Teams were re-seeded at the Elite Eight. AU was awarded the No. 1 seed and Tyler was handed the No. 8. The Patriots are the only non-No. 1-seed from their respective regional tournament. All seven other top seeds made the Elite Eight.

The Next Step

The winner of Monday night’s game will move on to the NCAA Division II Final Four, which will take place on Wednesday night in Missouri.

The winner will face off with the winner between No. 4 Tampa and No. 5 Glenville State.

That Wednesday night contest will take place at either 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.

“Winning is hard. Making it this far is pretty special. By being special you have to sacrifice and do extra aside from practice,” Alvidrez said.  “To be able to compete at a high level and take it one game at a time. We want to make sure we are the toughest team and work the hardest and see what happens.

“This is what we dream about. Our team is excited to be here, just two years into Division II. We’re excited and we are going to take it one game at a time. We’re going to battle it out tomorrow and see what happens and try not to get too high,” she said.

Statistically, the numbers favor Ashland.

The Eagles average almost 18 points more per game than Tyler  (83.9-66.1) while both surrender 58. AU has an edge in every shooting category: field goal (52 percent to 41 percent), 3-point (40 percent to 32 percent) and free throws (80 to 75).

AU has outrebounded its opponents by seven per game (36-29) while Tyler was beaten on the boards by an average of 36-34 per game.

The Patriots feature a guard-oriented lineup with an international flair. Here is a look at Tyler’s top players:

Megan Mendazona

Megan Mendazona (5-9, freshman, guard) — The Oregon native has come on as the season went along, capped by an 18-point, 11-rebound performance in the regional finals. She was selected as the regional tournament MVP about averaging almost 20 points in the three-game span.

Destini Whitehead (5-9, senior, guard) — The Texas native averaged 12.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and led the team with 66 assists.

Tina Machalava (5-9, sophomore, guard) — The Slovakian averaged 12 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, coming off the bench most of the season.

Lovisa Hevinder (6-1, sophomore, guard) — Hailing from Sweden, she averaged 10.4 points and 6.5 assists per game.

Montse Gutierrez (6-1, junior, guard) — The Spaniard averaged eight points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

The 2023 DII Women’s Basketball Quarterfinals between AU and UT-Tyler tips off at 7:00 PM EDT. 

You can stream the game live here.

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