SIOUX CITY, Iowa &

After graduating six seniors from a team that lost in the first round of the NAIA Division II national women's basketball championships last season, few had St. Ambrose ticketed for a return trip to Sioux City.




The Queen Bees, though, have rebuilt quickly under first-year coach Nathan Altenhofen and passed their opening-round test on Wednesday, downing Southern Oregon 77-58 in the last of eight games on the first day of the 2008 tournament at the Tyson Events Center.




Ali Dolphin, a 5-7 freshman from Marshalltown, Iowa, fired in a career-high 30 points and Jenny Clark, her sophomore backcourt mate, added 21 for St. Ambrose, which won for the 16th time in its last 17 games.




No. 15 St. Ambrose, the Midwest Collegiate Conference champions, improved its overall record to 29-5 and earned a date with No. 2 Morningside in the second round. Morningside rolled to a 104-80 win over Berea, Ky., on Wednesday.




The game is a rematch of a Nov. — game in Davenport, Iowa, won by Morningside 76-65.




"We have a good group of young kids who enjoy this system and it's fortunate that our two leaders have a great work ethic out there and Ali and Jenny worked their tails off today," said Altenhofen, who led Odessa College to a national junior college championship last year. "It tends to be contagious. I've been fortunate enough to be around some good teams and this is not my first national tournament. About mid-season, we thought we had a good chance to get here."




The 5-6 Clark was the conference player of the year while Dolphin led the league in scoring and was MCC newcomer of the year. Dolphin also had 14 rebounds and Clark six steals.




No. 18 Southern Oregon, making its first national tournament appearance in five years, couldn't overcome 13 first-half turnovers and 27-percent shooting before intermission. The Raiders, who won the Cascade Conference tournament, finished off a 29-5 campaign, the best in school history.




Southern Oregon had no players reach double figures, but was led in scoring by Ashley Baker, a 6-foot sophomore, with nine points. The Raiders wound up just 20 of 69 from the floor for 29 percent.




"We came here with a young team and we knew it would be an experience for us," said Southern Oregon Coach Lynn Kennedy. "We came here to win it as everybody does, but their experience kind of took over that first half.




"They were able to extend their pressure and we had a lot of turnovers. I thought second chance points affected the game tonight. Give them credit, they played well.




"I'm proud of how we played all year. Three years ago we had four wins before I came here and we've built the program up. We have nine freshmen and sophomores, so hopefully we'll be back."




St. Ambrose led 36-25 at halftime and never looked back, setting up a second g-around with Morningside.




"It's going to be a lot harder because they are going to be here in their back yard," said Altenhofen. "I think both teams have improved a lot. Morningside has already proven that they are one of the top four or five teams in the country.




"I've made this statement in junior college and I'll make it now, you have to be one of the top four or five teams to realistically have a shot to win the national title. I've challenged our young girls, are you ready to become one of those teams."




ST. AMBROSE (77)




Whitney Rumbold 1-5 0-0 3, Jenny Clark 7-16 3-7 21, Ali Dolphin 12-24 5-10 30, Mary Burmeister 1-4 1-2 3, Dara Widdop 1-3 5-7 7, Aysha Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Amy Fulfs 0-4 3-7 3, Megan Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Megan Cash 0-0 0-0 0, Callie Sobaski 2-6 2-2 6, Jen Lickteig 0-0 0-0 0, Casey Breitbach 1-8 1-2 4. Totals 25-70 20-37 77.




SOUTHERN OREGON (58)




Chelsey Muri 3-5 1-5 7, Emily Brookins 1-6 1-2 3, Kellyn Cooper 3-4 0-0 6, Rhiannon Dickison 3-9 0-2 7, Jackie Speer 1-4 4-6 6, Keri Nakamura 0-0 0-0 0, Krystal Smith 2-5 1-4 7, Carly Wood 2-7 0-0 5, Whitney Scott 3-16 0-0 6, Ashley Baker 1-5 7-9 9, Heather Porter 0-0 0-0 0, Lindsey Scheffler 1-8 0-0 2. Totals 20-69 14-28 58.




Halftime &

St. Ambrose 35, Southern Oregon 26. 3-point shots &

St. Ambrose 7-23 (Rumbold 1-5, Clark 4-9, Dolphin 1-1, Fulfs 0-2, Breitbach 1-6), Southern Oregon 2-22 (Muri 0-1, Brookins 0-4, Dickison 1-6, Wood 1-4, Scott 0-6, Scheffler 0-1). Fouled out &

Muri, Cooper. Technical &

Cooper. Rebounds &

St. Ambrose 50 (Dolphin 14), Southern Oregon 38 (Speer 8, Baker 8). Assists &

St. Ambrose 12 (Dolphin 4), Southern Oregon 9 (Muri 5). Turnovers &

St. Ambrose 12, Southern Oregon 25. Total fouls &

St. Ambrose 26, Southern Oregon 26.