COLUMBUS - Before hitting the gym for the next-to-last practice prior to the start of the 2017 NCAA Division II Elite Eight, the No. 1-ranked Ashland University women's basketball team started its Monday (March 20)…in the gym.
The Eagles began a busy Monday with a community engagement stop in the morning at St. Catherine School in Columbus. Following team introductions to the assembled fifth- and sixth-graders, the players and coaches started with a team drill. The players then split up into stations, where individual instruction followed.
"It is really awesome for them," said Janet Weisner, St. Catherine principal. "These particular students in these two grades are into sports, into athletics, and they would be highly-motivated to see this type of opportunity."
The hour ended with a game of Land and Sea, led by Ashland assistant coach Kari Pickens, passing out wristbands and tickets and a question-and-answer session.
"It was really fun to get to watch our girls interact with the students, and they did such a good job," said Pickens, who was a senior player during Ashland's last Elite Eight trip in 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. "It's fun to watch your players do such a good job, rather than being the student-athlete doing it.
"That (Land and Sea) is a classic camp game. I was in charge of camps for the last two years, and I love that. They have so much energy, they're so excited to just do whatever you ask them to do. It makes it a little more engaging."
Community engagement is nothing new for the Ashland women, who earlier in the season, among other things, put on a free kids clinic, read at the Ashland Montessori School, participated in Tuffy's Trick or Treat and served at the AU freshman drive-in.
The community engagement was the start of a busy day for the Eagles, who will have an afternoon practice prior to the championship banquet on Monday night.
Ashland (34-0) will begin Elite Eight play on Tuesday (March 21) at 6 p.m. against West Texas A&M (26-8) in a national quarterfinal at Alumni Hall on the campus of Ohio Dominican University.