Women’s Basketball prepares for season

Noah Cloonan

With the fall sports season winding down, the Ashland University women’s basketball team is ready to embark upon what they hope to be a National Championship season.

AU finished last season 31-2 on the season, but were bounced early in the NCAA tournament by Drury University. The Eagles are back and looking for vengeance as they will look to defend their Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and do some damage in the NCAA tournament as they look for their first national championship since 2012.

The core of the team is all returning for the Eagles, as Andi Daugherty, Laina Snyder and Julie Worley will look to lead their team to a championship. AU also returns seniors, Alex Henning and Kelsey Peare. 

Last season was Robyn Fralick’s first season as head coach of the Ashland University Eagles. She was taking over for long time coach, Sue Ramsey and had some big shoes to fill and she did not disappoint. She led the Eagles to a 31-2 record, a GLIAC South regular season title, a GLIAC Championship, and hosted the Midwest Regional Tournament. 

The Eagles enter the 2016 season as the preseason favorites to win the GLIAC South as the received six out of the seven first place votes, Ohio Dominican received the other first place vote. 

The team will also open the season as the No. 5 team in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Poll. The Eagles also received one first place vote. This is the second highest preseason ranking the team has received and the highest since 2012 when they were ranked No. 1.

Andi Daugherty and Laina Snyder were each named to the preseason GLIAC South All-Conference team after their dominant performance a year ago. 

The Eagles front line was one of the best in all of Division II a year ago and they return all of their bigs. 

Daugherty led the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game, Snyder added in 15.1 PPG and Worley provided 8.5 PPG off the bench for the Eagles. Seniors, Henning (8.3 PPG) and Peare (6.5 PPG) round out the starters that are returning for the Eagles this season. 

AU graduated two seniors a year ago, Mckenzie Miller and Jamie Sobczak. Miller averaged 8.3 PPG as a started and the Eagles will miss her presence from behind the arc. 

Sophomores Maddie Dackin and Brooke Smith came on strong for the Eagles towards the end of the season as they began to see more playing time down the stretch. 

The offseason for the Eagles and Fralick was a good time to get away from campus for a little bit and work on their individual game. The women had the opportunity to go home and find a job or get an internship and Fralick noted that some of the team went on a mission trip together. 

“Those sorts of life experiences, you know you come back and you see them different,” Fralick said. “More mature, changed, new perspectives and they also work hard. That’s a big part of our program, is getting kids we can trust to work hard on their own and they have done that.”

For those returning from a year ago, they know what to expect once the season rolls around, but their will be some new faces on the court this season as the Eagles will once again bring in a star studded freshmen class. 

Jodi Johnson headlines the freshman class. The freshmen from Wadsworth averaged 19.3 PPG as she led her team to a state championship with a 28-1 record as a senior. She was named the Cleveland.com player of the year as a senior and was first team All-Ohio as both a junior and a senior. 

Sara Loomis, the Malvern product, will look to add some length off the bench for the Eagles. Loomis is the all time leading scorer at Malvern and averaged 21.4 PPG in her senior campaign. She was named to the AP Division IV second team.

Baylee Kuhlwein will add some depth at the guard position for the Eagles. Kuhlwein attended Teays Valley High School where she earned All-Central District honorable mention.

Rounding out the freshmen class is local product, Renee Stimpert. Stimpert finished her high school career at Crestview with 2,305 career points. She will serve as a dominant shooting threat for the Eagles.

 Coach Fralick is excited about the opportunity to work with such a talented group of freshmen. 

“They are competitors, their winners, you know they are from winning programs, they’re very versatile,” Fralick said.  “They can all guard and play different positions, which for us is very important in the way we play in our system.”

The ability to play different positions is very important to Fralick and her coaching staff because it allows them to mix up the lineup in a lot of different ways to keep players fresh on the court. 

This will also help them to stay aggressive on defense, which is something that Fralick has impressed upon her players religiously throughout the first few weeks of practice.

 The team tried to get more aggressive last season and they will look to become even more aggressive this season.

“I’m really enthusiastic about this group,” Fralick said. “It’s a good mix of experience and newcomers. It’s a great experience of players who have big time experiences and have gotten to play on big time stages. And yet we also have four freshmen that are adding a youthful exuberance to the squad.”

Fralick’s goal for the season is to play as one unit and to stick together throughout all the trials the team may face. 

“We got to get better everyday,” Fralick said. “Our hope is to be improved and that it’s clear that there is a total buy in to the process and a total buy in to what our team does. If we can do that then the product takes care of itself.”

The Eagles 144 wins over the last five seasons is the most in all of Division II during that span.

AU will look to continue this strong tradition as they start this season off against The Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus on Nov. 6. The scrimmage is set to tip off at 1 p.m. This game for the Eagles against a perennial Division I powerhouse will be a good test to see where the Eagles are at to start the season. 

The regular season for the Eagles will begin on Nov. 11 as the Eagles play host to Cedarville in the GLIAC/GMAC Exempt Tournament. Conference play will begin with Lake Superior State on the road on Dec. 1.