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SIOUX CITY, Iowa â€” As Valley City State University womens basketball coach Jill DeVries sat in a seat Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center, it marked one of the more noticeable differences from her teamâ€™s first trip to the NAIA Division II Womens Basketball National Championship tournament.
Two rows below, the team watched Cal State San Marcos, who beat the Vikings in the A.I.I. Championship tournament, play in its opening round loss to Davenport.
â€śWeâ€™d be getting nervous right now,â€ť DeVries said.
Rather than game plans and preparation for the Wednesday night game that took place last year, the Vikings got a chance to take it all in.
VCSU, of course, got an extra day off and will take the floor at 1:45 p.m. today, kicking off the tournament against College of the Ozarks.
â€śWe had a little more practice time and a little more downtime and a little more relaxation time in preparation for tomorrow,â€ť DeVries said.
But even with an extra day compared to last year, the Vikings two days in Sioux City were not for relaxation or sight seeing. Rather, the team kept basketball at the forefront, squeezing in multiple practices Tuesday and Wednesday, attending the tournament banquet, and catching pieces of Wednesdayâ€™s opening round.
Despite the focus, the team managed to give back to the Sioux City community as one of the participants in the tournamentâ€™s annual clinic for Special Olympics athletes, which took place Tuesday morning.
The team participated in last yearâ€™s clinic as well, and DeVries said it was one of the highlights for last yearâ€™s team.
Senior Mandi Bindas, who has been out with an injury all year, enjoyed the clinic.
â€śWe had littler ones, so we took them through dribbling and passing. They shot a little bit,â€ť she said, noting how much the Special Olympians enjoy it.
â€śIf they make a basket, theyâ€™re smiling,â€ť she said. â€śI think they have a lot of fun with us.â€ť
With the game on the horizon, DeVries felt good about her team.
â€śI think theyâ€™re excited and ready to go,â€ť she said.
Post player Alyssa Hummel echoed that and said the team was ready to go.
â€śWe know that weâ€™re going to have to play pretty well against (Ozarks,)â€ť she said. â€śThey have a couple of big girls to deal with, but weâ€™re all excited about it.â€ť