Student Life

A Lesson in Leadership with SAU Women’s Basketball

(Photo Courtesy of Sydnee Hortsman)

With the final spot in the CCAC playoffs on the line, the Bees may be a longshot to make the tournament. However, that is not keeping this team from fighting for every last minute of every game.

“I think they do have a chance, it’s going to be difficult for sure but it’s still in the cards,” said broadcaster Ryan Schiestel who has faith in what he thought was a lost cause early.

Head Coach Zac Exume says that he will be coaching his team with a relentless passion and pushing his team and the players to get better every single day no matter what happens.

“The players are taking to our drills and principles really well and I think down this last stretch we can really implement these things in practice and running drills.”

Exume was chosen to right the ship reeling on the undertow of a tumultuous end to the previous season. Multiple upperclassmen and the head coach leaving in the middle of a playoff run, and a brutal loss at Olivet Nazarene in the first round of the CCAC tournament led into an offseason that raised plenty of questions about the future of the women’s basketball program at SAU.

The loss in the playoffs hurt the sophomore forward even as she saw success in winning Freshman of the Year in the conference.

“I’m a very competitive person,” Abby says, “it’s hard to find motivation each day without success.” 

The new hire is already seeing improvements over his previous tenure, where he won one game to 19 losses. He has four years of experience as an assistant coach, but came to St. Ambrose after leading Thomas University in his first year in charge of a program as the head coach. He scored very well with the selection committee here at Ambrose as his vision and plan far outshone the other candidates.

“I thought a new hire that’s a non-alum was the right idea, he knows basketball for sure and some fresh blood is exactly what this program needs,” said Nehemiah Miller, SAU senior.

Boosted with the confidence that the selection committee showed by choosing to hire him, and some confidence from the students, he went into this season with high expectations of himself to succeed.

To say it’s been a learning curve for both the team and the coaching staff so far would be an understatement for this Fighting Bees team. After a slow start and dropping their first six games, the Bees are now finding a rhythm as they have six wins and eight losses over their previous fourteen games. Showing growth during the season is a tough challenge and not easily accomplished without players who buy into what the coaching staff is telling them every day during practice and shootarounds.

On a team with no seniors to speak of, players like Wolter and Caitlyn Thole, a sophomore guard who has gotten good minutes this year, have stepped up to lead this team to help the players trust the coaches. “I wasn’t surprised that Abby stepped into that leader role, as freshman of the year I could put more on her plate,” says Exume, “it was Caitlyn who, after getting more minutes, got very comfortable with her role and really stepped up.”

True leadership is hard to come by but they’ve done well, according to Wolter, who says the team has, “shown the most growth during the season because at the start it looked like individuals but now it looks like there is a group of girls working toward a common goal.” This kind of growth is a combination of the players and coaches trusting each other and a team building true chemistry.

For more on the women’s basketball season, find their episode of Inside SAU Athletics here.