Women’s basketball team refuses to take an L

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Women’s basketball team refuses to take an L

Senior guard Jodi Johnson drives down the court against Davenport.

Senior guard Jodi Johnson drives down the court against Davenport.

AU ATHLETICS

Senior guard Jodi Johnson drives down the court against Davenport.

AU ATHLETICS

AU ATHLETICS

Senior guard Jodi Johnson drives down the court against Davenport.

John Margida, Reporter

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The Ashland University Women’s basketball team is off to a solid start to 2019-20 season with a record of 17-0 overall, 9-0 in conference.

The Eagles are piggy-backing off of an outstanding 2018-2019 season, finishing 29-3, barring the team’s loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March.

As the Eagles sit right now, they are ranked No. 3 in the nation for Division II women’s basketball. They are currently on a 17 game regular-season win streak after their defeat of Wisconsin Parkside this past Saturday.

The team has not been afraid to shoot the ball this season, heading into last weekend they were shooting 51.7% from the field as a team with a 3PTFG% of 44.4%, both of which lead the nation in their respective categories.

The last team to lead Women’s D-II in both categories in the same season was the 2017-18 Eagles who went on to be the NCAA D-II National Runner-Ups.

On Jan. 9 the Eagles were able to get their biggest win of the season as they took down their Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival No. 3 Grand Valley State with a 77-68 win. That was a major step forward according to women’s basketball head coach Kari Pickens, as the girls lost both of there matchups last season with the GVSU.

“It was definitely a playoff-type atmosphere and great to see our four seniors step up and play like an experienced and veterans group,” Pickens said. “I’m excited to see where they will take this team in the second half of the season.”

The Eagles were led by their four seniors leaders on the court in this pivotal midseason matchup. The team’s leading scorer was former GLIAC Player of the Year, Jodi Johnson, with 21 points.

Sara Loomis was the second-leading scorer with 19 points but without her contribution on the defensive end, the raining GLIAC Player of the Year, Laker Cassidy Boensch would have had her way all night under the basket.

Senior Renee Stimpert also contributed 16 points and 10 assists to the Eagles’ big win and Sara Hart helped out with 8 points off the bench and had the 3-pointer that sealed the win for the Eagles.

In the four seasons that the senior athletes have been on the team, only four total regular season games have been lost – two of those have been to Grand Valley State.

“Grand Valley beat us twice last year so we wanted payback,” said Stimpert. “The Ashland community is always super supportive and they know the challenge Grand Valley brings. I know throughout the game we were getting back and switching up defenses, and I couldn’t even hear someone that was standing right next to me on the court. I think that is so cool and shows how awesome a sport we’re a part of.”

According to Pickens, the real icing on the cake was the fourth quarter, one of the best so far this season.

“Beating Grand Valley is always a big win since we have such a great rivalry with them,” Pickens said. “They are a very well-coached, very talented team and I was proud of our girls for their fight and grit; especially in the fourth quarter where we cleaned a lot of things up and played our best quarter when it mattered the most.”

Even though the team has shown great success thus far, they refuse to get too hot-headed.

“It is very important that we don’t celebrate too long after a big win, we have a 12-hour rule where we can celebrate our previous win for 12 hours. We talk about it and then we are on to focus on the next game. I’m just looking forward to leading this team and seeing where we can go,” Stimpert said.

In terms of improvement, Pickens is looking for the team to develop on the defensive side of the ball.

“Our offense has continuously cleaned up a few things and performed better and better. Defensively we are taking steps forward and have definitely grown, we are looking forward to the latter half of the season to fine-tune a few details so we are playing our best basketball in March.”

Along with the No. 3 Eagles are fellow Midwest Region teams No. 1 Drury and No. 4 Grand Valley State making the late-season rematch with the Grand Valley State Lakers on Feb. 8 even more important for seeding and determining who hosts the GLIAC tournament and the Midwest Region in the NCAA Tournament down the road.

“Our biggest opponent is our next opponent because we can only play who is in front of us that day. We focus on one thing at a time,” Stimpert said.

The women’s team will look to climb the ranks as they currently sit at No. 3 in the nation and improve on their 17-0 start as they will take on Saginaw Valley State on Jan. 25 at 1:00 p.m. in Kates Gymnasium.

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