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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Eagles soar above Trojans, claim conference championship victory

The Eagles found their third straight Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship title
Submitted by AU Athletics
The Eagles celebrate at center court inside of Kates Gymnasium after winning the GMAC championship.

That’s now three in a row for the Ashland University women’s basketball team.

On Saturday, March 9, the Eagles defended their Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) successes as they took down the Trevecca Nazarene Trojans in the conference championship, 99-58.

“Every year it just gets a little bit sweeter,” said graduate forward Annie Roshak. “You win one, you always want another one. This team has been special and we are excited to see what we can continue to do.”

Coming into the contest against the Trojans, the Eagles had recorded three straight contests under their season average in field goal percentage at a 40% mark. Those struggles did not hinder the team from finding victories, but the issues starting to arise certainly became present.

Against the Thomas More Saints in the GMAC Semifinal round, the Eagles’ offensive inconsistencies allowed for the contest to stay close throughout the entire set of 40 minutes. The final score just barely favored the Eagles, 67-56, pushing them to the championship game.

Heading into the title game, a key focus for the Eagles was finding their rhythm offensively and returning to what worked throughout the season.

“Thomas More switches up what they do defensively, and I thought we attacked them well in certain ways,” said Eagle Head Coach Kari Pickens after the team’s win in the semifinal round. “I don’t think we are as dominant as our post players usually are, but thankfully our guards came up big when we needed it.”

To kick things off against the Trojans, they came out swinging and in the opening 13 seconds Roshak sliced her way to the basket for the first points of the game.

They would only continue to push the pace of play and got out to an early 18-7 lead with 4:45 left in the quarter.

Helping to lead the charge were the likes of guard Lexi Howe, guard Erin Daniels and forward Sarah McKee from beyond the arc.

After they got out to a quick start, the Trojans would rebound well through the remaining four minutes of the opening stanza as they outscored the Eagles, 9-5, bringing the first-quarter scoreline to 25-17.

With the Eagles possessing an eight-point lead, they only excelled further in the second frame.

Starting point guard Savaya Brockington dominated on the offensive side of things, finding five assists in the second quarter alone, for a total of eight in the first half. She would help contribute to the Eagles’ best quarter of the contest, as the team found 33 points and shot 13-of-15 from the field.

Once again, the team would thrive from three-point range as they made four to pull away from the Trojans by 28 at the halftime break.

Through the opening 20 minutes, Brockington knocked down four shots while also dishing off eight assists. Alongside her efforts offensively, both forwards, Zoe Miller and Roshak, recorded a double-digit first half.

“We knew what we wanted today. It is championship Saturday with the tournament on the line,” said Assistant Coach Jenna Kotas. “We know how bad we want it and we are letting shots fly.”

Heading into the second half, the Eagles were in a prime position to coast to a conference championship.

However, they would not coast at all and instead excel further ahead in the final two quarters.

In the third stanza, the Eagles put 18 points on the board compared to 13 from the Trojans. Leading the way for them was Brockington who dished off three more assists that led to Howe and Molly Dever finding baskets from distance, while her third assist came on a full-court dish to forward Hayley Smith for an easy layup.

The constant ball movement helped to keep the Trojans on their heels, pushing the lead to 31 heading into the final quarter of play.

With 10 minutes remaining and a conference championship in the forefront, the Eagles would empty their bench and give the underclassmen opportunities to perform in a high-spotlight setting. Coming off the bench, freshman guard Gia Casalinova was instantly the standout as she drilled a three-pointer with ease.

She would then go on to record a rebound, while freshman guard Kylie Leibacher would hit a three-ball of her own to get herself onto the stat sheet.

The fourth quarter would once again see the Eagles outscore 23-15 en route to a dominating 99-58 win. The team finished the contest with an impressive 58% from the field while shooting 49% from the perimeter. They also saw five individuals in double digits on scoring, one in assists and one in rebounding.

“That is honestly what we wanted to do today; make a statement,” said Kotas. “We wanted people to know who the GMAC champions were. It is exciting to see people step up and fill big-time roles.”

The Eagles finished GMAC play with a staggering 23-0 record while going 20-0 throughout the regular season in conference play. The win on Saturday marks the third GMAC title they’ve secured to go alongside three regular season titles.

Individually, the Eagles will wrap up the conference side of things with multiple awards, including Freshman of the Year honors for Howe, Player of the Year honors for Roshak and Head Coach of the Year recognition for Coach Pickens.

“I will say it over and over again, there is no place like Ashland,” said Roshak. “The team, the coaches, the fans, the community support, I have loved every second of my time here.”

The Eagles next await the results of the 2024 NCAA Division II Regional Tournament Selection Process that occurs on Sunday, March 10, at 10:30 p.m. EST. The results can be found on

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