"We have seven seniors on this year's squad with six who are four-year letter winners," Brown said. "Those seniors have helped lead the team to Southland Conference tournament appearances each of their four seasons here. No other senior class in our program's history has equaled that accomplishment."
Seniors Hillary Ackerman, Kayla Anderson, Amanda Biega, Paige Rodriguez, Michelle McCollough and Kirby Zak all are making their fourth Southland tournament appearance. Hailey Shelpuk joined the team last year as a junior transfer.
In those three appearances, the Kats have pulled off first round victories twice to reach the semifinals. SHSU defeated UTSA 3-2 in overtime then fell in the semis to Texas State 2-1 in Natchitoches in 2009. Last year, again at Natchitoches, the Kats knocked off Lamar 1-0 but fell against to the Bobcats in a penalty kick shoot-out after a scoreless tie.
Sam Houston enters this year's event as the No. 5 seed and will face off with No. 4 Oral Roberts in the first round at 4:30 Thursday at Cowgirl Field on the campus of McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. The winner takes on regular season champion Stephen F. Austin in the semifinals Thursday night.
ORU qualified for the conference tournament in its first season in the league. The Golden Eagles defeated Sam Houston 1-0 on a goal with less than 20 seconds remaining in sudden death overtime in Tulsa.
The Jacks earned the No. 1 seed with a perfect 8-0-0 league record and set a school record with 15 total wins on the season. It marked the second consecutive year SFA finished conference play with an unblemished mark, giving the Ladyjacks their seventh overall regular-season championship.
Lamar, which won six of its final seven matches to finish with a 6-2-0 mark in conference, is the No. 2 seed and draws a first round bye.
Southeastern Louisiana earned the No. 3 seed with a 5-2-1 record after reeling off four consecutive wins. The Lady Lions will take on host-institution No. 6 seed McNeese State (3-5-0) Thursday night at 7 p.m.
The winners of the two Friday matches will play for the tournament championship Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner earning the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Single session tickets on Thursday and Friday are available for $10. Two-day, two-session tickets are $15. Tickets for Sunday's championship are $8 for adults and $6 for youth. Children under the age of 5 and student at Southland Conference institutions are free with a valid ID.
The championship match will be televised on the Southland Conference Television Network, available live on more than 20 affiliates across the league's four-state region. In addition, all games of the tournament will be streamed live on the new Southland Conference Digital Network, available at southland.org and on the league's iPhone and Android mobile and tablet apps.
Sam Houston State's goalkeeper Kylie Hambleton earned honorable mention all-conference and was selected as the freshman of the year. Hambleton, a Katy, Texas, native, ranked second in the conference in saves per game (5.36), third in save percentage (.843) and fourth in shutouts (6). Hambleton played in net for 14 of Sam Houston's 18 matches this season.
The Golden Eagles went 4-1-0 in overtime conference matches this season, the most played in conference by any team. Oral Roberts is led by All Southland selections midfielder Jennifer Abernathy and defender Lauren Parks .
The Bearkats rolled to a 4-3-1 conference record to earn the No. 5 seed. Freshman midfielder Katie Ferrara, senior defender Kayla Anderson and senior midfielder Kirby Zak represented earned on second-team all-conference honors .