#EagleNation Spotlight – The Consummate Senior Leader

#EagleNation Spotlight – The Consummate Senior Leader


She's played in 113 career games, one of the top figures in program history.

She's made 87 percent of her free throws and 35.7 percent of her 3-point field-goal attempts as an Eagle.

The contributions Ashland University senior guard Rachelle Morrison makes for the undefeated Eagles, however, can't be measured in statistics.

"Rachelle this season, she's just set the standard," said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick, who has termed Morrison as the team's "heart and soul" earlier in the season. "She's set the standard on our team for what it looks like to be completely bought in, not conditionally.

"Her buy-in is not conditional. Her buy-in, it's completely unconditional. And her ability to put the team first is real. She's living that. It's been probably the most important thing, or one of the most important things and parts, to our season, is her genuine leadership and selflessness."

For the 31-0 Eagles this season, heading into a 2017 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional quarterfinal on Friday (March 10) at 5 p.m. vs. Malone at Kates Gymnasium, Morrison has played in 26 games, averaging 2.5 points in 9.6 minutes per game. Whether it's hitting threes, making layups on the fast break, dishing out assists or cheering from the sidelines, Morrison has enjoyed every second of it.

"This season has went by in the blink of an eye," she said. "It's been the fastest season. They all go fast, but this season just seemed to go a little bit faster. It's been so much fun. What more could you ask for in your senior year, being undefeated and getting to host the regional tournament?

"I'm just so excited for what's to come, but looking back, all of the hard work that we've put in, I'm not surprised where we're at. It's been so fun watching everyone grow."

Morrison has seen her share of winning in her four seasons as an Eagle. Coming in with fellow senior guard Kelsey Peare in the recruiting class immediately following the program's D-II national championship in 2013, Morrison has helped Ashland go from an 18-9 mark as a freshman to three consecutive regional appearances, the last two at home.

And she, along with the rest of the Eagles, are six wins away from the program's second national title.

"The national championship is always the goal here at AU," said Morrison. "This year, we've made it more prominent to actually talk about it. Before, it kind of seemed like a goal that wasn't necessarily communicated aloud, so talking about it and making it realistic has really helped. It's so cool to see everything start to fall into place."

Fralick said what Morrison has brought to the Eagles in 2016-17 isn't just what's seen by fans on game day.

"She brings it every day," said Fralick. "You should see her in practice – she communicates, she leads, she holds people accountable. On the bench, she's another set of eyes, another voice. She sets the standard for what it looks like to be a great teammate.

"Rachelle is in a position this season where she is ready. She's ready for whatever the team needs out of her, whatever that looks like. She has a great mind for the game, she really understands it."

As the veteran leader of Ashland's reserves, Morrison is pleased she hasn't had to drag her teammates into being positive forces on the bench during games.

"It's so encouraging as a senior leader that you don't have to beg for people to be happy for their teammates," she said. "Those moments, that pure joy, we're just so excited for our team. It comes from the relationships that we have off the court. We're excited for each other because we love each other and we're friends, and we want each other to succeed. The bench is already into it.

"I've been very fortunate to have teammates that already do those things for the team."

One most recent example of how respected Morrison is came prior to Ashland playing host to the 2017 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Final Four. When asked who she wanted to lead the pre-awards banquet prayer, Fralick didn't hesitate.

"Her maturity is really good. You can count on her, and you can trust her," said Fralick. "All those things are really meaningful. As the head coach, that matters a lot, and I really value her and what she brings to this team."

Said Morrison, "I appreciate that so much. That they think so highly of me, it means more to me than they'll ever know. Without followers, you can't be a leader. I'm really grateful for all of the girls and coach Robyn. I was really happy to be able to get to that prayer. That was special."

So what will it be like for Morrison come Friday at 5 p.m., when the consistently-large Kates Gymnasium crowd gathers for Ashland's second consecutive home regional and fourth at home in the last six years?

"The last five minutes of that last game (for the GLIAC Tournament title) was just deafening," she said. "I had goose bumps because it was so loud in there, and that definitely gives us an advantage. Our fan base is like that every time. That is definitely an advantage to get to play at home."