Rose-Hulman has come a long way since its women’s athletics program debuted in the fall of 1995.

Longtime Terre Haute residents might remember how its women’s basketball teams struggled to win one or two games a season in the late 1990s.

“I think it’s unbelievable the things that they have done here,” Rose athletic director Jeff Jenkins reflected. “Our coaches and our women athletes have done a phenomenal job.

“We had so few women competing [in the 1990s]. Since then, I think our coaches have really done a great job of recruiting. It takes a while to get a program going. It takes a while for girls in high school to see, ’They’re taking this seriously.’ ”

A prime example of Rose-Hulman’s persistence is its women’s soccer team, which will be at Washington (St. Louis) University today for the NCAA Division III regional tournament. The Engineers will square off against Denison in first-round action at noon EST.

Webster and Washington U. round out the four-team regional as they’ll square off in the second game at 2:30 p.m. EST.

The regional championship match will take place at 2 p.m. EST Sunday at Wash. U.

“I like our chances [of winning the regional],” Rose coach Brad Hauter said. “I think when you get to this point in the season, everybody starts on a level playing field. It doesn’t matter that we’ve won 19 games… Who ever decides to show up and play better that day is the one that’s going to keep playing.”

Wash. U. is the top seed in the regional, so the Bears are probably favored to emerge triumphant.

“Clearly, they are a very good team,” Hauter admitted. “They’ve earned the right to be the No. 1 seed.”

But the Engineers are a very good team too.

Rose-Hulman captured its first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship as part of a historic season that has featured numerous school records and conference leaders.

The female Engineers enter the Division III tournament with a 19-2 record, including 16 consecutive wins to close the regular season. The team claimed the first HCAC title for the Rose athletic department as well as the first conference title for a women’s athletic team in any sport at the college.

Other notes of significance include the women’s soccer team making the first Division III tournament appearance by any Rose-Hulman athletic team since its men’s basketball squad qualified for the 1999 Division III tournament.

But advancing beyond the regional won’t be easy for Hauter’s group.

Denison (13-5-2) finished second in the North Coast Athletic Conference this season and is ranked No. 21 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The Big Red advanced to the Division III Sweet Sixteen last season after earning a trip to the national quarterfinals in 2005.

Denison earned runner-up honors behind 12th-ranked Wittenberg in the NCAC this fall.

The Big Red have won three of their last four games entering tournament play and outscored their opposition 40-13 in 2007.

Washington U. (15-3) is ranked No. 10 in the latest NSCAA national poll after earning a University Athletic Association championship.

The Bears’ three losses have come to teams ranked No. 1 (Wheaton) and No. 11 (Emory) in the national polls, along with Division III tournament participant Chicago. Washington has outscored its opponents 39-12.

Webster rounds out the field with a 16-4-1 record and a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

The Gorloks will make their third consecutive trip to the Division III tournament after winning a penalty-kick shootout over Maryville (Mo.) in the league tournament championship game. Webster has won eight of its last 10 games entering NCAA play.

If you can’t make the trip to St. Louis, each Rose-Hulman game in the Division III tournament will be broadcast by WMHD-FM 90.7.

David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.

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