Ex-Warrior on Western women’s squad vying for national championship this week

Sydney Donaldson looks for a pass at the top of the key during Western's victory over Simon Fraser last month to win the NCAA II West Regional playoffs. (Photos by Nick Gonzales, Western Athletics)
Sydney Donaldson looks for a pass at the top of the key during Western’s victory over Simon Fraser last month to win the NCAA II West Regional playoffs.
Donaldson takes on two Simon Fraser defenders on her way to the net.
Donaldson takes on two Simon Fraser defenders on her way to the net. (Photos by Nick Gonzales, Western Athletics)

Former Edmonds-Woodway basketball star Sydney Donaldson is in San Antonio, Texas, this week, hoping to win an NCAA Division II championship along with the rest of the Western Washington University women’s basketball team.

A 6-foot sophomore forward, Donaldson has been one of Vikings’ top players off the bench, averaging 6.4 points on 51.5 percent (87-of-169) floor accuracy and 4.1 rebounds.

The Viking women, 28-3 overall this season and ranked No. 5 in the USA Today Division II Top 25 Poll, are back in the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time since 2000. They will meet Nova Southeastern University in the national tournament quarterfinals on Tuesday in Bill Greehey Arena,  located on the St. Mary’s University campus in San Antonio.

The Vikings have won 22 of their last 23 games, losing once between two season-best 11-game winning streaks. They reached the Elite Eight with a 75-58 victory over Simon Fraser in the West Region championship before a crowd of 1,129 at Sam Carver Gymnasium. WWU opened the regional with a 70-50 triumph over Academy of Art, and defeated Cal State Monterey Bay, 71-63, in the semifinals.

My Edmonds News had a chance to catch up Sunday night via email with Donaldson, a three-year varsity basketball player at Edmonds-Woodway who led her team to two state 4A championship tournament appearances, and also played four years of varsity volleyball.  She said that she and her WWU teammates arrived in San Antonio late Saturday night, had an early practice on Sunday, and then had some free time to explore downtown San Antonio.

“We’re staying on the River Walk so it’s really pretty and a fun environment,” Donaldson said. “On Monday we have a practice at the facility we’re playing at (Mt. Mary’s) and then a banquet with all the teams in the tournament.”

A win against Nova Southeastern Tuesday night will send the WWU women into the Final 4 on Wednesday, playing the winner of Gannon and Ashland — “two very good teams,” Donaldson said. “If we win Wednesday then we will play in the national championship game Friday.”

Donaldson, who has been on varsity at Western since her freshman year, said that playing college basketball “has been a big adjustment but one that has been great. My first year it was a lot of getting used to the intensity of the training and the game speed. This year as a sophomore I am much more comfortable and having a great time.

“The balance of academics with traveling is something that gets easier with age as well,” she added. “Our program really values academics and we all make sure to establish good relationships with our professors each quarter because we travel so much. Most are really nice and complying to our busy schedules and help us reschedule tests and such. But you really have to be on top of everything and stay organized or else it can be really easy to fall behind.”

While playing basketball and studying occupies the majority of her time, Donaldson said that she enjoys living in Bellingham and tries to get outdoors when she can, running around Lake Padden or studying at Boulevard Park down by the water. “It’s a great place to go to school,” she said.  While “officially undecided” about a major, she is leaning toward kinesiology in hopes of becoming a physical therapist.

She said she is able to come home to Edmonds for somewhat of a summer break, although continues her basketball training and also has to return to school about a month before classes begin to participate in preseason team workouts.

For now, though, her focus is on the next few days and bringing a national basketball championship home to Bellingham — and she will have her own cheering section as well. “Both my mom and my dad are coming down for the games and our family friends from Tennessee are driving 16 hours to watch! I am so fortunate to have the support system that I do and so glad to share this incredible experience with my family,” she said.

The game will be streamed live on NCAA.com, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.

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