The University of Akron women's basketball team finds itself just where it hoped to be in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Monday.
That would be in the friendly confines of Rhodes Arena, where the Zips (16-13, 7-11) have had most of their success this year.
The No. 8-seeded Zips will host No. 9 Eastern Michigan (13-16, 6-12) at 5 p.m., with the winner earning a trip to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for a quarterfinal matchup with top overall seed Central Michigan at noon Wednesday.
"We're really excited to host to start March madness at the JAR," UA coach Melissa Jackson said. "We have been working hard all year long and can see big improvements over last year.
"Our goal has been to get to Cleveland in March."
A win Monday would fulfill that in Jackson's first year as head coach. She served 10 years as an assistant to former coach Jodi Kest.
Just 9-21 both of the past two seasons with only five MAC wins in that time, the Zips started tournament play on the road each year and were quickly eliminated with first-round losses.
This season the Zips are 9-5 at home, including 5-4 against MAC foes. But they are just 2-7 in MAC road games.
In program history, the Zips are 2-0 when playing a home game in the MAC Tournament. They are 1-1 against Eastern Michigan, winning in 2010, losing in 2015.
A couple other trends may not be favorable. With a 66-49 loss at Miami Saturday, the Zips finished the regular season on a three-game losing skid.
They also lost both regular-season games against EMU this year, 72-60 at home on Jan. 16 and 67-60 on Feb. 20 in Ypsilanti.
"They are really athletic and we have to put a body on people," Jackson said.
Danielle Minot, a 5-foot-8 redshirt senior, leads EMU scoring at 13.5 points per game, followed by Corrione Cardwell (13.0) and Courtnie Lewis (11.1). The Eagles also have a 6-foot-5 post player in sophomore Autumn Hudson.
'We played zone [defense] the first time, and the second time a lot of man," Jackson said. "We will mix it up this time. Both times, we didn't play our best basketball, especially at home."
Megan Sefcik, averaging a team-leading 16.7 points per game, became the 15th player in UA program history to reach 1,000 career points Saturday. The redshirt senior from Austintown will play her final home game Monday.
Junior point guard Shaunay Edmonds (11.3) and junior forward Haliegh Reinoehl (10.0) also score in double figures. Reinoehl leads the Zips in rebounding with 8.1 per game.
Caitlin Vari, a 6-1 junior from Revere High, averages 9.0 points and 6.9 rebounds, and junior Shayna Harmon leads the team with 3.8 assists and 2:1 assist/turnover ratio.