Prior to the Ashland University's women's basketball team's 2017-18 home opener vs. Notre Dame College on Nov. 14 at 6 p.m., there will be a national championship ring ceremony at 5:30 p.m. at Kates Gymnasium.
The ring ceremony contest, open to Ashland University fans of all ages and all locations, was announced in August. Fans were encouraged to submit a video or letter, typed or written, explaining why they are a fan of the team, why being a part of the ceremony would be meaningful, how the team has helped them personally or in the community, etc.
Sixteen people have been chosen to present rings to 11 players, four coaches and the athletic trainer at the ceremony, and the first eight names are revealed below, with snippets of their submissions. The other eight names will be announced next week.
Laina Snyder, presented by Diane Coffman – "These ladies have brought me joy in my walk of life we have shared personal and life moments with each other. I retired May 3rd 2017 from A.U. If you choose me to present a ring, this would be one more chance in a lifetime."
Renee Stimpert, presented by Mary & Fred Stimpert – "One of her biggest fans of course, is me, her mother, and of course her dad! We would like to present her this championship ring because we have seen her work, push and fulfill a dream she has had since she has been old enough to dribble. That dream… to play at Ashland University and bring home a National Championship. There is something to be said about all of that, but imagine seeing your daughter achieve this… now that is pretty awesome!"
Baylee Kuhlwein, presented by Claire Swaisgood – "Hello, my name is Claire, I am 8 years old. I love the Ashland Eagles, I even went to the National Championship game. My friend is named Baylee Kuhlwein, I would like to present Baylee her Champion ring, and it would be an honor to present it to Baylee. I am so proud of her and the Eagles!"
Kelsey Peare, presented by Lora Markham – "I was completely honored when Coach Fralick asked me to be a part of her Mentor Program that she was starting. She paired me up with Kelsey Peare and a very special relationship was formed. It's funny how things become a part of who you are. I feel like AUWBB is just a part of who we are. It's brought very special people into our lives and it's brought us closer as a family."
Maddie Dackin, presented by Jim Tugend – "On March 20th, 2016 I suffered a massive saddled double pulmonary embolism and wound up at Riverside Hospital. No one there really expected me to survive, but I did! I was in Intensive Care for 24 hours, then stepped down into the Cardiac wing on Tuesday afternoon. The cardiologist came into my room Wednesday morning and said, 'You are the luckiest man I have ever treated, you can go home.' I immediately called to see if there were any seats left on the bus (to Columbus) then drove back to Ashland to board to bus for the game! Now beginning the new season by presenting a ring would put an exclamation mark on the last season and the exciting second chance at life that I have been blessed with."
Jodi Johnson, presented by Kimmie Humrichouser – "The team is a major part of the Ashland community. Seeing the gym packed when the students aren't on campus is a testimony to the love the community has for the Eagles. Every team member interacts with the fans, which shows the genuine feelings the team have for the fans. The actions have helped strengthen the bond between the community and the university. Watching the elementary, middle, and high school basketball teams filing into watch the AU women is amazing."
Sara Loomis, presented by Tony Snyder – "I've been watching every playoff run since 2004, wearing my heart on my sleeve, as usual! To be able to witness our National Championship game live and in person is the pinnacle! I didn't stop smiling for days after we won and I would tell anyone who would listen that my team is the undefeated National Champion! There are few feelings better than that! Hats off with love to this 2017 team. I'll never stop cheering for you!"
Brooke Smith, presented by Jerry Horst – "Everyone on the team has such a sweet attitude and being a Christian I was impressed from the first game I witnessed how that starting, five even though being very accomplished, still knew they couldn't do it alone and always gathered in a circle before tipoff to ask God to help the play."
Ashland's women completed NCAA Division II's first 37-0 women's or men's basketball season in 2016-17, scoring a D-II women's hoops-record 3,456 points in the process. It was the program's second national championship (2013).
The Eagles will go into 2017-18 with the longest winning streak (37 games) of any basketball team, men or women, at any level of the NCAA, and that winning streak is tied for the fourth-longest in Division II women's basketball history.