The history of Eagle basketball in the national championship

Cade Cracas, Sports & Digital Editor

The Ashland University women’s basketball team is no stranger to finding itself atop the Division II scene and a part of the national championship as they’ve been seen there four times in program history.

This year, the same claim can be made as the Eagles will take on the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in Dallas in hopes of bringing home a title in what is now the team’s fifth appearance.

The Eagles have found themselves in the last dance in five seasons, those being 2011-12, 2012-13, 2016-17, 2017-18 and the 2022-23 seasons. Through those five seasons, the team has amassed a 179-4 record, losing just two games in the regular season and two in the national championship.

Each of those seasons and national championship runs were unique, with its own individual story.

You can find an in-depth analysis of the history of the Elite Eight and Final Four by clicking the links below:

Elite Eight | Final Four

2011-12 Season: Loss

The 2011-12 national championship run was initially the most successful run in program history, even though the team fell just short of a title. Prior to the team’s explosion onto the D-II scene, the Eagles’ best season was an 18-3 record in the 1974-75 season led by Head Coach Ruth Jones. With that being noted, it was a shock to most when Head Coach Sue Ramsey flipped the program on its head.

Throughout the regular season, the Eagles amassed a stellar 33-1 record while running the table in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). In the conference tournament, they beat their opponents by an average of 12 points per game. Heading into the Midwest Regional Tournament, there was no doubt that they were the clear favorite.

In the opening round, they took down Maryville (Mo.) 87-62 before downing Quincy University and the University of Parkside en route to the program’s first-ever Elite Eight appearance. Then in the Elite Eight, the Eagles would take down Alaska-Anchorage, 71-51 with little struggle, and then in the Final Four take down Bentley University, 77-62.

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However, the national championship would be where the Eagles met their match against Shaw University.

For just the third time in history, a national championship game would go into overtime, but unfortunately for the Eagles, they would not come out on the winning end.

After heading into halftime with an 11-point lead, 43-32, the Eagles were riding high off of senior Jena Stutzman who recorded 20 first-half points. The Eagles also shot a stellar 50% from the field, 67% from beyond the arc and 85% from the charity stripe. With that much momentum, it looked like they would close out the contest in the second 20 minutes and hoist a national championship trophy above their heads.

An 11-turnover second half for the Eagles would allow Shaw to keep the contest close. Both teams exchanged three leads a piece, with the game being tied 10 times.

In the game’s dying moments, Stutzman, who had a stellar first half, would put an exclamation point on the end of her career with a game-tying 30-foot three-pointer to send the game into overtime. After the shot was nailed, the Eagles and their traveling faithful rejoiced at the clutch moment they were blessed with, but they were in for extra time.

Out of the gates, Shaw struggled but was able to swat down the Eagles as they commanded a six-point lead to finish the game, outscoring the Eagles 16-10 in overtime.

Stutzman led the way for Ashland, who finished with 32 points and eight rebounds, while transfer forward Kari Daugherty (Pickens) finished the game with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

The Eagles’ first eye-opening season, which had just one loss heading into the championship, fell just short of the promised land.

2012-13 Season: Win

After a season that defied the odds and expectations of many ended in overtime heartbreak, the Eagles were back and looking for another stamp to be made on the D-II scene.

Starting the season off with an exhibition against D-I Dayton University where the Eagles downed them 79-77, the season looked bright with senior Daugherty keeping exceptional form.

The Eagles would then run through non-conference play with no struggles and take just one loss in conference play coming against GLIAC, now GMAC, rival in the Findlay Oilers.

Heading into the conference postseason with confidence, the Eagles routed a dominating 68-35 victory over Northern Michigan before taking down Michigan Tech in the second round, 81-68. In the conference championship, the Eagles got revenge on the Oilers by beating them 68-49, a 19-point defeat to hoist the conference title.

After putting together a one-loss regular season, and a GLIAC championship, the Eagles received the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional Tournament.

In the opening round, the Eagles blew out Indianapolis, 70-56, and in the second round, took on Michigan Tech for the third time that season, downing them 67-54.

With a chance for their second appearance in the Elite Eight in program history on the line in the Regional Championship, the Eagles took down another GLIAC foe, the Wayne State Warriors, 72-63.

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In the Elite Eight and Final Four, the Eagles had little struggles against Gannon and Western Washington as they beat both by 10+ points. However, the Eagles found themselves in the exact same spot they were in the previous season, just one game away from taking home the program’s first national championship.

In the title game, the Eagles came with vengeance.

Heading into halftime, the Eagles led, 38-25 over the Dowling Golden Lions. For the defensive-minded Golden Lions, that would be the most amount of points they allowed in the first half all season. While the offense was thriving, the Eagle defense also showed strengths as they held the Golden Lions’ top scorer, forward Danielle Wilson, to just four points through the first 20 minutes.

To start the second half, the 13-point lead bounced around that margin as the Golden Lions tried to build upon a comeback. With eight minutes gone by, the Eagles’ lead had been diminished down to just eight points.

However, after that single-digit lead, the Eagles would bounce back with two straight three-pointers to bring the lead back into double digits. After those three-pointers, they would never allow the Golden Knights back within single digits for the remainder of the contest, closing out a 71-56 victory.

They were led by a 26-point and 12-rebound performance from Daugherty and a 20-point add-on from guard Taylor Woods. The team as a whole held Dowling to just 38% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc while the Eagles shot 47% from the field and 43% from three-point range.

For the first time in program history, the Eagles had found a national championship.

2016-17 Season: Win

After winning a national championship three years prior, the Eagles found themselves back in the running as one of the top teams in the country.

During those three years between the 2012-13 and 2016-17 seasons, the Eagles recorded a 74-20 record, still keeping them as a team to be on the lookout for. During the 2014-15 season, the team made it all the way to the Midwest Regional Final, before falling to the Lewis University Flyers. Then, in the 2015-16 season, the Eagles lost just two games, with one of them coming in the semi-final round of the Midwest Regional Tournament, sending them home with unfinished business.

To start the 2016-17 season, the Eagles scrimmaged D-I The Ohio State University and fell by just nine points, 88-79. After that, they would show no signs of struggle as they won 37 straight games en route to a national championship.

In the regular season, the closest margin of victory was seven points, 82-75, against Michigan Tech. They also scored over 100 points in a game, 11 times, as the top offense in D-II.

Heading into the conference tournament, the Eagles waltzed past Walsh University, Michigan Tech and Grand Valley State by an average of 20 points per game to secure a GLIAC title.

With momentum continuing to grow as the season progressed, the Eagles entered into the Midwest Regional Tournament as the No. 1 seed once again and took down all three opponents by an average of 20 points.

Through both the GLIAC and Midwest Regional Tournament, the Eagles outscored their three opponents in each tournament by 59 points. Not only did the team find tremendous success throughout their last six games, but they also got revenge on the Drury Panthers who ended their season the year prior.

Now, with the team’s third Elite Eight appearance in program history upon them, there was little doubt the Eagles would stop their reign of terror. They routed an 82-67 win over West Texas A&M in the Elite Eight before beating Downing, 90-77, in the Final Four.

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The Eagles, for the third time, found their way into the national championship.

In the championship game against the Virginia Union Panthers on the campus of Ohio Dominican University, the Eagles were looking to become the first D-II team to complete a 37-0 undefeated season.

To start the game, they came out of the gates swinging with a 44-point first quarter where the Eagles led 24-20. Combined, the two sides shot 58% from the field and 75% from deep.

With both offenses thriving, they both just looked to continue those efforts heading into halftime as they one-upped their first quarter with 45 points being scored in the second. The score at halftime just slightly favored the Eagles as they led 47-42. Through the entirety of the first half, the Eagles shot 55% from the field and 52% from three-point range. On the contrary, the Panthers recorded 47% from the field and 1-of-3 from beyond the arc.

The real first-half difference was made in the free throw column as the Panthers struggled, shooting 5-of-13, which would have given them the lead if they could’ve connected from the charity stripe.

In half number two, the Eagles showcased tremendous stamina as they continued their first-half performance without missing a beat offensively as the Panthers were unable to do the same.

The Eagles outscored them, 46-35, clinching a 93-77 victory led by an efficient scoring day from guard Jodi Johnson who knocked down four three-pointers alongside 19 points. Outside of Johnson, forward Laina Snyder contributed 17 points while hauling in seven rebounds and dishing off six assists.

The team finished the game shooting above 50% from both inside and outside the arc while going above 90% from the line.

The Eagles, through three national championship appearances, would now have two titles in their trophy case.

2017-18 Season: Loss

After completing an undefeated season the year prior, the Eagles looked to continue that streak, in which they would.

Starting the 2017-18 year off against two D-I opponents in exhibitions, it seemed as though the Eagles would be striving for greatness once again. They took on Ohio State once again, and the University of Connecticut (UConn). Against the Buckeyes, the Eagles put up 80 points but allowed 110 in a 30-point loss. Against UConn, the Eagles once again did not put up the performances they wanted to as they tallied just 56 points in a 63-point loss, 119-56.

The Eagles were able to get some of their qualms out of the way early as they prepared for the regular season. To start the season, they took on Cedarville University and beat them down, 115-60, which would be one of 19 100+ point games for the Eagles that season.

At one point from Jan. 13 through Feb. 10, the Eagles had eight straight 100+ point-scoring games, with one against Purdue Northwestern topping 120 points.

Heading into the conference tournament, the Eagles allowed just 39 points while putting up 88 against Davenport in the opening round. The Eagles would then down Northwood University and Grand Valley State in the semi-final round and the finals, to secure the team’s third straight conference title. That victory also made them the only team in a seven-year period to win five regular season titles and five conference titles in the GLIAC.

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In the Midwest Regional Tournament, the Eagles would once again be the No. 1 seed while riding a 68-game win streak.

To open up NCAA Tournament play, the Eagles put up their only 100-point game in the postseason against the Hillsdale Chargers, downing them 104-82. In the semi-final round, they faced Grand Valley State once again, defeating them 80-68. With the tournament practically being a revenge tour for opposing Midwest teams, the Eagles would then take on Drury in the regional championship game.

Fortunately for the Eagles, their streak would live on and surpass 71 games heading into the Elite Eight as they took down the Panthers, 79-73 in nail-biting fashion.

In the Elite Eight and Final Four, the Eagles would put up 90+ points in both games, while allowing under 75 points in both, clinching a spot in the national championship.

To start the game, the Eagles seemed to be on their usual path to success as they outscored Central Missouri, 20-15. Although they had the lead, to finish the first stanza the Eagles missed their last 11-of-12 shots. In the second quarter, the Eagles were unable to break their shooting funk as they shot 40% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc as they were outscored 20-11.

Heading into halftime down by four, 35-31, some small adjustments needed to be made on the offensive side of things.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, those adjustments would not be made as they recorded just 21 points in the second half while shooting 8-of-34 from the field, under 25%.

The Eagles were led by Snyder who recorded 16 points and Renee Stimpert who added on 10.

For Central Missouri, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Paige Redmond, led them with 22 points in the title game.

The Eagles ultimately would lose, 66-52, ending their 73-game win streak.

2022-23 Season: TBD

After a stellar 2022-23 undefeated season, the Eagles have the opportunity to complete their second-ever 37-0 season topped off by a national championship.

Tune into this year’s national championship by heading over to for full LIVE in-game radio coverage. 88.9 WRDl’s very own Ethan Jenkins and Cade Cracas will be on the call.