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Megan Pold (54) and Jordan Bridges (23) will return next season for the Jimmie women’s basketball team. The University of Jamestown was ranked No. 5 in the final NAIA poll of the season. John M. Steiner The Sun

Sour ending: Ulland, Jimmies look forward

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The Jimmie women’s basketball team was ranked fifth in the final NAIA poll of the season.

The No. 5 position was the highest ever for the program, but it left coach Greg Ulland with little solace. Still stinging from the Sweet 16 exit at the national tournament earlier this month in Sioux City, Iowa, the fourth-year coach said it was a sour finish.

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“It’s a tough thing to swallow how it ended. It’s going to take some time to get over that one,” Ulland said. “That’s not to diminish the season we had, because there were a lot of good things, but it’s tough to have it end like that.”

The Jimmies’ 27th win of the season over Roosevelt, Ill., in the opening round at nationals was one of their best performances of the season. However, it was followed by one of their worst, losing 76-54 to Cardinal-Stritch, Wis., in the Sweet 16.

It was the third straight season the Jimmies’ season ended with 27 wins, but also the third straight year they were unable to advance past the second round at nationals. Ulland said changes are coming.

“You can’t continue to do the same things over and over and expect different results,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate everything. How we practice. How we train. What we do in the summer. We have to get over the hump. We can’t just stay stuck where we are and have that be good enough. We want to get to that next level.”

Ulland was quick to point out the many positives from the season, most notably earning the program’s first ever No. 1 seed for the national tournament.

“As a whole you look at the season and you have to feel good about it,” Ulland said. “We have good kids and they did what we asked them to do.”

The Jimmies loose three seniors in Hannah Steele, Carly Jensen and Morgan Mathison. Filling the shoes of Steele will be the toughest. The three-time All-American finished her career with the fourth-most points (1,369) and second-most assists (623) in program history.

“We lose almost 3,000 points, but that means the other girls have to improve and step up,” Ulland said.

Several key players return, including starters Jordan Bridges (10 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2 bpg) and Megan Pold (5 ppg, 4 rpg) inside and top reserve Jessica Buck (10 ppg, 5 rpg). Ulland plays 13 girls regularly, 10 of them will be back next season, and another strong recruiting class also is signed and ready to help.

“There’s so much parity, you can’t predict who’s going to win,” said Ulland, who watched more than 20 national-tournament games. “We just have to find the right formula that’s going to get us over that hump.”

Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at dselvig@jamestownsun.com

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