Two-time champ Alabama fails to qualify for NCAAs

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After a dynastic run that included two NCAA Championships and a runner-up showing, Alabama coach Jay Seawell will have to find something else to do in two weeks’ time.

The Crimson Tide failed to even reach this year’s finals after finishing seventh Saturday in the Noblesville regional, 11 shots back of the all-important fifth spot.

“I appreciate everything that’s happened,” Seawell said by phone Saturday night. “I look back on the last three years, and it’s something you dream of your whole life.”

Of the top eight seeds that reached match play a year ago, Alabama is the only team that won’t make a return trip to NCAAs. It’s not a total surprise, for the Tide lost three seniors from last year’s two-time title-winning team and had plenty of new faces in the lineup. Plus, without sophomore Robby Shelton’s best stuff – he finished 38th in Indiana – the road to Bradenton was always going to be rocky. 

“I don’t feel like it’s an end of an era, but it does mean that it’s a new start and a new hunger,” Seawell said. “I’m already itching to get back at it again. I’m expecting us to be good enough to play with the best teams next year.”

The Tide won’t lose a starter to graduation while also welcoming in Davis Riley, currently ranked as the No. 3 junior in the country. 

Seawell thought the Tide were a top-10 program at the start of the season, but they won only once and lost talented Irishman Gavin Moynihan midway through the season because of homesickness. Alabama was ranked 21st heading into regionals.

“I knew this would be tough,” he said, “because we’re not as deep as we’ve been, but there wasn’t one day that I thought if we did the right things and played our game that we couldn't get back in it.”  

As for what he’ll do during NCAAs, Seawell said he will watch the coverage, to see another coach’s “special moment.” When his team missed qualifying for the NCAA finals, in 2006 and ’10, he passed the time by re-sodding his yard. Now? “I’m too old and the yard doesn’t need to be re-sodded,” he laughed. 

So his plan for now? To resurface the driveway.