BEREA, Ohio — March Madness is quickly approaching – but this morning we highlight a Northeast Ohio basketball team that is already dancing in the Division III women’s basketball tournament.
Baldwin Wallace is set to face Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the Sweet 16 on Friday. It’s a comeback story after COVID left them sour two years ago.
“Our seniors experienced a freshman year as a normal year and have not had a normal year since in a college career because their sophomore year was cut short. They spent the last six weeks online,” says head coach Cheri Harrer.
Let’s start in March of 2020. The Yellow Jackets were 28-2 Ohio Athletic conference regular season and tournament champions. They reached the Sweet 16, but their chance to make history was shut down by COVID-19.
“We had five seniors on that team two years ago that didn’t get to finish their careers on their own terms. Hopefully everything goes right, and these seniors get to finish on their own terms,” coach Harrer says.
In 2021 they were forced to play a shortened season with no NCAA tournament. This year, they had games canceled and played in front of limited fans.
“Definitely, what happened two years ago makes every game like it could be our last game -- especially this year we had three games canceled already so just playing every game like it could be our last and especially now in the tournament when you lose you go home,” says BW senior Megan Scheibelhut.
The pandemic may have slowed them down, but it certainly hasn’t stopped them.
“I really truly do believe that what has carried us this entire way is just how much all the girls on the team care about each other. We are 19 best friends. We’re together all the time. We just love each other so much,” says BW senior Lilly Edwards.
That caring, confidence and fight comes from their head coach who is in her 32nd year at Baldwin Wallace with a school record of 644 wins – the second most in the 116-year history of the league. Her resume also includes 16 NCAA tournaments, six Sweet 16s and three elite eights.
But she has never reached the final four.
“Selfishly you want to get to that final four and we have the opportunity to do that. At the same time, it’s still about the kids. In the big picture, if we never get there we never get there. As long as these kids have had a great experience and we set them up for success long-term,” coach Harrer says.
Ranked 10th in the nation, they are 23-4 overall, sharing the OAC title and winning the conference tournament. A win Friday night and again Saturday in Wisconsin would land them a spot in the final four.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated article regarding the Cleveland Guardians on March 11, 2022.