2020: AU’s women’s basketball’s undefeated season that was never completed

The 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic put a stop to all sports seasons, but many may not have been as gut-wrenching as the Eagles’


AU Athletics

The Eagles hoist the GLIAC trophy above their heads during the 2019-2020 season after taking down Grand Valley State.

Cade Cracas, Sports & Digital Editor

The Ashland University women’s basketball team is widely regarded as one of the most successful Divison II basketball programs in the 21st century. Through five appearances in the Elite Eight and Final Four the Eagles have never lost. In the national championship, the team has won two and lost two with a chance to find the program’s third title during the 2022-2023 season.

However, when taking a deeper look at the program’s historical archives, one season has an abrupt stop. That would be the 2019-2020 season, that due to a worldwide pandemic, came to a close prematurely, never to be resumed.

“Student-athletes from around the country went to NCAA Championships prepared to compete in one of the most memorable weeks of their lives only to see everything erased,” said Ashland University’s Director of Athletics, Al King.

On March 12, 2020, the NCAA canceled all remaining spring and winter seasons that were still ongoing. This decision was made based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat that threatened the NCAA’s ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic.

“It wasn’t a total shock because I remember seeing other things around the country starting to get canceled and different universities across the United States were delaying their students’ return to campus from spring break, but then to actually have our own tournament and the rest of our season canceled made it super real,” said current graduate guard Hallie Heidemann, who was a sophomore at the time.”

For the Eagles, when this was announced, they were sitting in Springfield, Mo., preparing for the Midwest Regional Tournament where they would be taking on the University of Southern Indiana in the opening round.

That opening round was set to take place on Friday, March 13, which was just one day after the season was canceled. The quarter-final round against USI would have been the Eagles’ sixth straight appearance in the regional tournament dating back to the 2014-2015 season.

Although that streak came to a close due to the cancellation, another streak in place, one much more difficult to hold, was ended.

That streak was an undefeated 31-0 overall record. That undefeated season for the Eagles would have been their second in program history, outside of the 2022-2023 season. While it is still counted as an undefeated season, the cancellation of the remaining games hurt the morale of the team.

“There aren’t many words to describe the feeling when we found out our season was over other than gut-wrenching. We were playing our best basketball, and I truly believe we would’ve won a National Championship,” said current Graduate Assistant Erin Daniels, who was a sophomore at the time. “Our hearts hurt for our four seniors because they deserved to finish their careers with another chance at winning it all.”

Although the team was unable to finish off the special season, Daniels was still appreciative of the many memories made.

“We may have been robbed of the chance to go far into the tournament, but we did end our season by beating Grand Valley for the third time that season on our home court AND for a GLIAC title,” emphasized Daniels. “The cancellation of our season was a great reminder that basketball is just something we do, and not who we are.”

Alongside Daniels, Heidemann put the season in perspective to her life.

“It was a reminder that it’s more than a game, it’s bigger than basketball, and at the end of the day basketball is always going to be just something that we do and never who we are,” she said.

After returning back to Ashland, Ohio, reality set in, but the Eagles showed that they fly together as support poured out.

“On Monday, I was back in the office after traveling with the women’s basketball team to Springfield, Mo. Four or five staff members came to me and said whatever was needed to do – whether it was in their area or not – they were ready and willing to help,” said King.

While the pandemic rolled on, the Eagles continued to be a light to those around them as they organized community outreach opportunities and service events.

Alongside being active in the community, they showcased drive and determination in the gym to get better and work to be back to speed after the pandemic.

“There will be tough days, but we are tough people. Times like these reveal character and in addition to size, speed and strength, we have plenty of character,” said King. “We’re not accustomed to failure. We won’t fall short now.”

The Eagles would most certainly not fall short and would use the loss of the 2019-2020 season as momentum and drive in the 2022-2023 season.

Three years removed from the pandemic, the Eagles are headed to the national championship to take on Minnesota Duluth with an opportunity to find the third championship in program history.

“This season has been just super special. While it definitely does not replace anything from that 2020 season, it has just been such an awesome experience in its own unique way,” said senior forward Annie Roshak. “We’re super pumped for one more game and to represent Ashland on the big stage.”