On Sunday night, the equipment manager at Lake Erie College washed the uniforms of the women's basketball team.
That followed the Storm being run through the wringer on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 11).
The Storm came to AU's Kates Gymnasium unbeaten and leading the GLIAC in points per game (85.6). The Eagles read that label, but saw nothing about a gentle cycle. Using a physical defense that never relaxed over 40 minutes, the Eagles won their seventh straight game and took over sole possession of first place in the GLIAC South Division with a 76-60 triumph.
Ashland is 7-1, 3-0 in GLIAC play. LEC is 7-1 and 2-1. The Eagles will not play again until Saturday (Dec. 17) when they go on the road to meet Hillsdale, a team they handled in Ashland, 77-57. This is AU's first seven-game winning streak since 2005-06. The last time the Eagles had a longer winning streak came in 2004-05 when they ripped off an eight-game winning streak.
Make no mistake, the Storm looks to be one of the most improved teams in the conference. Until running into the Eagles they had controlled the glass, used a full-court press that helped produce a league-high 15.7 steals per game and been able to hit teams with waves of points. None of that worked against AU.
"I think we had a good scout," replied AU head coach Sue Ramsey when asked how Ashland was able to shut down the Storm. "We really challenged our team to take away their individual strengths. Then we put in the collective effort as a team. We played man-to-man with the principles we have. Everyone was on the same page."
In the first half, the Eagles limited the Storm to 8-of-30 shooting (26.7 percent) from the field. The Storm never had the lead and at one point, went 6:20 without a field goal. With 11:55 left in the first half the Eagles led, 18-12. With six minutes left in the half, Ashland was in front, 32-14. That was AU's largest lead of the game. At halftime the Eagles had a 41-27 advantage.
The Storm has been able to do damage to teams inside all year, but against the Eagles, that didn't work out. Center Stephanie Rogers had her usual numbers with 18 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two rejections, but AU made her work for those – she was 6-of-19 shooting. Entering the game, Rogers was the GLIAC leader in field goal percentage (.625).
Forward Alyssa Wagers, who came in averaging 14.0 ppg., and 8.9 rpg., was limited to three points and four rebounds.
The Eagles also got good pressure on the perimeter. LEC was 8-of-19 (42.1 percent) from three-point range, but never got on a roll where it could climb back into the game. AU's lead never fell below double digits in the second half. For the game, the Storm shot 29.5 percent (18-of-61) from the field. AU outrebounded Lake Erie, 43-35.
"We needed to have good position," said Ramsey. "Number 44 (Wagers) is a good player and she likes to go to her left. Ashley (Dorner) did a great job on her. They've lived off of offensive rebounds."
In this game, the Eagles led in second chance points, 17-16. Dorner had 18 points (that ties her career high) and nine rebounds. Junior forward Kari Daugherty (Fresno, Ohio/Dayton) had season highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds. She was 10-of-11 at the foul line, 8-of-8 in the second half. Sophomore guard Alyssa Miller (Zanesville, Ohio/Tri-Valley) had eight points, eight assists and four steals in 35 minutes. She was 4-of-6 from the floor.
According to Ramsey, Daugherty was also a key reason the LEC press was broken down by the Eagles.
"In all seven of their games, they pressured the entire game," said Ramsey. "But when you have a player like Kari Daugherty in-bounding the ball, a forward who plays like a point guard, it makes it hard to press. They stopped pressing and this is the first time we've seen them do that."
The Eagles received a boost from rapidly-improving freshman guard Taylor Woods (Wadsworth, Ohio), who had eight points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in 28 minutes. The Eagles needed extended time from Woods because redshirt freshman guard Chelsea Laporte (Miamisburg, Ohio) was out for the game due to a shoulder injury.
"I thought Taylor did a good job, she showed a great deal of maturity," Ramsey said. "She was our practice player of the week. I thought she did a great job with her decision making."
Daugherty and Dorner were the only Ashland players to reach double digits in scoring. LEC received 13 points and six rebounds from forward Jen Caiola.
This is the first of two meetings between these teams. The next matchup comes in the final game of the regular season, Feb. 25 at Lake Erie.