WILLIAMSTOWN -- It's been 14 years since the Williams College women's basketball team hosted the round of 16 in the NCAA Division III tournament. This time, the Ephs would like a different outcome.
"I remember how excited everybody was. That was a great team we had in ‘99," said Williams coach Pat Manning. "It was new to us.  was the first year that we made the tournament. There was just a lot of excitement."
The excitement ended in the Elite Eight game. Williams beat Rowan in the Sweet 16, but lost to Salem State the next night in Chandler Gym.
Now, the Ephs get to try it again.
Williams (23-5) will host Ithaca (27-2) tonight at 8, in the second game of the Sweet 16 doubleheader. Emory (24-3) and Whitman (22-5) will play in the 6 p.m. opener. The winners will play Saturday at 7 p.m.
"Once the bids went out, we didn't think we had that much of a chance to play at home," said Manning. "When Smith upset Southern Maine and we knew that Ithaca wasn't able to host with their gym renovations, it started getting exciting."
Ithaca's gym is out of commission due to extensive renovations. Coach Dan Raymond said that while the Bombers would rather be at home, he'd trade a tournament road game for the on-going work.
The 13-year veteran coach said his team was ready to bus to Williamstown.
"It's something that the program hasn't done in 10 years," said Raymond, referring to playing in the Sweet 16. "We're very excited about the progress the program has made at that time."
The last time Williams got to host in the Sweet 16 was in 1999 before NESCAC started playing its postseason tournament. That meant Williams had to earn an at-large bid.
Williams beat Bowdoin and then hosted Rowan, Salem State and Gallaudet. Kathleen Higgins, Williams first All-America player, led the Ephs. It was a talented group of Ephs alongside Higgins. Laura Brenneman, Rebecca Brooks and Liz Tilley.
Williams beat Rowan 62-56, but was upset by Salem State 76-60 in the Elite Eight game. Brenneman scored 21 points and Higgins had 14, and the Vikings went on to play in the Final Four, which was in Danbury, Conn.
Both coaches say theyre going to have their hands full with their opponents. Ithaca is going to really have its hands full with NESCAC player of the year Claire Baecher.
Theres nobody in [the Empire 8] that compares with her. Were kind of wracking our brains, trying to figure out whats going to be the best option to try to defend her, said Raymond, the Empire 8 Conference coach of the year. Theres no simple one. Nothing comes to right to the top immediately.
After going 0 for 7 from the floor and scoring 6 points in the NESCAC Tournament loss to Amherst, the 6-foot-2 senior from Brunswick, Maine, averaged 22.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots in wins over Scranton and Rochester.
Ithaca beat Colby-Sawyer and Smith to reach the Sweet 16. Junior guard Kathryn Campbell, who made the Empire 8 All-Conference first team, leads the Bombers. Campbell is her teams top scorer (12.2 points per game) and No. 2 rebounder (4.9 per game). Senior Devin Shea, a 6-foot senior, averages 10.4 points per game and was named to the conferences second team.
Theyre a very good defensive team, excellent rebounding team, said Manning. They have very balanced scoring. All five of their starters can score. Itll definitely be a big test for us. Both head coaches and their staffs have been pouring over video of tonights opponents.
However, Raymond has a little extra help on his bench thanks to assistant Shannon Finucane. The name should sound familiar, as Finucane graduated from Amherst in 2012. She was a four-year regular for coach G.P. Gromacki and a three-year starter. Her teams won three NESCAC titles, one Division III national title, and Amherst was 10-0 against Williams in Finucanes time in Amherst.
Shes pretty excited about [the game] too, said Raymond.