by Abigail Hintz
A global pandemic doesn’t normally lend itself to a fun basketball season.
But for the Cedarville women’s basketball team, this season was one for the books despite all the challenges. The Lord was faithful and kept the Lady Jackets healthy which allowed them to have a season full of firsts and full of success.
Head coach Kari Hoffman was overjoyed as she looked back on the season.
“This season was one of the funnest to be a part of, which I’m not sure any of us would have, in hindsight, said that five months ago,” Hoffman said.
All those months ago, it wasn’t even clear if the squad would get a season. Hoffman even took the time to call the seniors over the summer, including star guard Ashlyn Huffman, to tell them that there was a very real possibility that there would be no season.
Now, they have finished up a 19-6 season during which not a single game got cancelled.
“It just kind of brought our team really close in a lot of ways, just having to get through all of that for five months,” Huffman said.
The Lady Jackets came out of the season with a program-high ranking of No. 9 in the country in NCAA Division II, a Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) conference championship, a deep G-MAC tournament run and a berth in the NCAA tournament for only the second time in program history.
But the season’s defining moments came in the smaller victories throughout the season. It was the first time in Huffman’s career that the Lady Jackets had grabbed road wins over conference rivals Findlay, Kentucky Wesleyan and Walsh.
“Those are all games where you walk in the locker room and the water bottles are just spraying,” said Hoffman. “We had so many games like that this season, which is just one of my favorite memories.”
The successful season did not come without sacrifices. As would be expected, the logistics of the season was impacted by COVID in various ways. On weekends, the team would have to quarantine from one another to avoid contact tracing if one were to test positive on Monday. During the last two, pivotal weeks of the season, Hoffman tried to minimize contact for the players as much as possible by taking measures such as keeping them out of class.
Their efforts paid off and they were able to finish out the season without lingering questions of what could have been.
The Jackets were showered in accolades for their successful season. Hoffman was named the 2020-21 G-MAC Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year. Three players were named to G-MAC first team. Huffman, who led her team with 15.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Former G-MAC freshman of the year Isabelle Bolender followed closely with 14.3 points and 4.6 rebounds. Junior Emily Chapman had 14.1 points and a massive 57 triples this season.
Seniors Ashlyn Huffman and Stevie Johnting have made big time impacts on the program that will last for years to come.
Hoffman gives high praise to the two seniors.
“Stevie is business. She’s intense, she’s locked in. She was always encouraging, to the point that she didn’t come in this season as a captain, but we named her one. Ashlyn has come in as a freshman and contributed in major ways and then to end as one of the best players in the conference, one of the best players to play here, just couldn’t ask for more than what she’s given us.”
In her five seasons with Cedarville, Hoffman has seen the program grow to be competitive at a national level, a trend she hopes to see continue. She saw that most tangibly this season with all eleven players coming together as a family to achieve such great success.
For Huffman, she hopes that even after she leaves the team continues to strive for unity.
“A huge thing I tried to focus on the past two years being a leader, is being united. Every single girl feeling like, ‘Yeah, I have a family.’”
Abigail Hintz is a junior Journalism major and the Sports and Digital Editor for Cedars. She loves reading, playing Spikeball with her friends and watching soccer 24/7.