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The IUPUI Lady Jags were crowned the 2020 Horizon League champions on Tuesday. It came on a 51-37 victory over the Green Bay Phoenix, an effort spearheaded by senior Holly Hoopingarner, who led the Lady Jags with 16 points.
The victory gave the Lady Jags their first Horizon League championship. It also guarantees them a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
“It’s been quite a journey,” IUPUI head coach Austin Parkinson said after the game.
It was a physical game for the Lady Jags, with the victory coming due to tight defense and physical play. The Phoenix averaged 66.8 points per game this season, but IUPUI held them to just 37 points. On the boards, IUPUI limited the Phoenix to 25 rebounds, which is about 13 rebounds under Green Bay’s season average of 38.4 rebounds per game.
“We built our program on defense,” Parkinson said.
The defensive and physical tone of the game was established during the first quarter. Junior Macee Williams, the Horizon League Player of the Year, set this tone when she displayed her strength in the post by making a contested layup to get the scoring started. In fact, the majority of Williams’s 13 points on the night had to be earned on tough layups against Green Bay’s Madison Wolf.
At the end of the first quarter, the Lady Jags held a 9-4 lead. The second quarter began with a 6-0 IUPUI run on consecutive 3-pointers by junior Sydney Roule and Hoopingarner. Hoopingarner would go on to have a strong second quarter, making two 3-pointers within the final two minutes, one of which came with three seconds remaining in the half. At the half, the Lady Jags held a 31-19 lead.
Although Green Bay never held a lead in the game, it dominated the third quarter. The quarter began with the two teams trading shots. With 7:31 left to play in the quarter, the Lady Jags held a 37-24 lead. From there, Green Bay would go on a 13-4 run, drawing within five with just under 90 seconds left to play in the quarter. Hoopingarner made her fourth 3-pointer of the night to end the Green Bay rally. Green Bay and IUPUI would trade points to close the quarter out. Heading into the fourth quarter, IUPUI held a diminished 44-37 lead. Green Bay had momentum on its side, having outscored the Lady Jags 18-11 in the quarter.
“When we got out of the third quarter, we just came over and said listen, just stick to our game plan,” Parkinson said.
The Lady Jags did indeed stick to their game plan, with the fourth quarter being a defensive affair, so much so that Green Bay was held scoreless. The Lady Jags themselves only scored seven points, but it was enough to carry them to a victory.
“To hold them to zero points in the fourth quarter is a great way to finish it out,” Parkinson said.
Perhaps the most impressive performer of the final quarter for the Lady Jags was Williams, who grabbed five of her nine rebounds in the fourth. She finished the night with a total of 13 points. The Lady Jags also forced four turnovers in the final quarter. On the game, the Lady Jags forced 13 turnovers. This again showed the defensive effort IUPUI brought to the game, as Green Bay only turned the ball over an average of 11.5 times per game on the season.
After the game, Hoopingarner was named MVP of the Horizon League Tournament. Between the two games won over Cleveland State and Green Bay, Hoopingarner averaged 14.5 points.
“Her [Hoopingarner] leadership is insane,” Williams said. “She always tells us, even in practice, where to go, or if we’re down on ourselves, she’s always the one to pick us up.”
Hoopingarner also dished four assists and grabbed three rebounds to go along with her 16 points in the win. Sophomore Destiny Perkins also had a good game, scoring four points and grabbing seven rebounds off the bench. She also hit a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter to ice the game for the Lady Jags. Other top performers were sophomore Rachel McLimore, who finished with 10 points, and junior Katelyn O’Reilly, who finished with two points, seven rebounds, an assist and a block.
The Lady Jags will now look toward the approaching NCAA Tournament. The Selection Show will take place this coming Monday, March 16. From there, Coach Parkinson and the Lady Jags will attempt to continue the program’s historic season.
On March 10, one women’s basketball team will remain standing in the 2020 Horizon League Tournament.
The tournament will resume play with the semifinal round on March 9. The tournament began on March 3, with Wright State, Northern Kentucky, Cleveland State, and Milwaukee all moving on to the second round.
During the second round of the tournament, Northern Kentucky triumphed over Milwaukee, and No. 6 Cleveland State upset No. 3 Wright State. In the semifinal round, No. 1 IUPUI will square off against Cleveland State, and No. 4 Northern Kentucky will battle No. 2 Green Bay.
For the IUPUI Lady Jags, who finished the season 21-8 overall and 15-3 in conference play, this season has been near historic. Head coach Austin Parkinson nabbed Horizon League Coach of the Year honors. Senior guard Holly Hoopingarner earned Second Team All-League honors, and redshirt sophomore Rachel McLimore earned Third Team All-League honors. Junior Macee Williams, who has been a force for the Lady Jags this season, brought home a surplus of hardware, winning Horizon League Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, as well as being named First Team All-League and All-Defensive Team.
Williams, who is averaging a Horizon League-leading 17.8 points per game, as well as 8.9 rebounds per game, was honored to have her stellar play recognized by the Horizon League.
“Winning POTY means so much to me,” Williams said through Twitter. “I have to give a lot of props to my teammates because I feel like I am Player of the Year because of them.”
Her teammates truly have helped the Lady Jags earn the top seed in the tournament. Hoopingarner has averaged 9.5 points and 3.8 assists per game. McLimore will put out out a double-digit point total from game to game, averaging 11 points per game. Freshman guard Natalie Anderson has also been a solid contributor, averaging 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Although the Lady Jags won the regular season Horizon League title, they are still hungry for more.
“Winning the tournament and making it to the NCAA tournament is our number one goal,” Williams said. “We all would be very disappointed if we did not win it because we know we are capable of doing so.”
In order to win the tournament and capture their first championship since joining the Horizon League in 2017, the Lay Jags will first have to defeat Cleveland State. Although Cleveland State entered the tournament as the sixth-seed due to their 9-9 conference performance, they held the second-best overall record at 21-10. They are led by junior guard Mariah White and senior guard Mariah Miller. White, who was named this year’s Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, has averaged 15.6 points and 3.1 steals per game. Miller has averaged 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
In their two previous meetings this season, once on December 30 of last year at Cleveland State, and again on January 30 at IUPUI, the Lady Jags have been successful. During the December 30 meeting, which IUPUI won 78-53, and Williams scored a career-high 33 points. This first meeting also sparked a 13-game win streak for IUPUI. During their second meeting, which again saw IUPUI win, Williams scored 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
If the Lady Jags defeat Cleveland State, they would play for the Horizon League Championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament against the winner of the Green Bay/Northern Kentucky matchup. Green Bay and Northern Kentucky are two very hot teams at the moment, with Northern Kentucky riding a 4-game streak, and Green Bay riding a 6-game streak. Green Bay defeated the Lady Jags during this streak on a February 23 meeting in Indianapolis by a final score of 61-58. Green Bay is looking to win its 17th Horizon League title, and fifth in the last six years.
IUPUI will square off against Cleveland State on March 9 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, which will play host to the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament for both the men and women. Tipoff for the game is at noon, and any IUPUI student can purchase a ticket for $10 by showing their student ID at the gate.
On January 26, Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of eight others, including his daughter, Gigi Bryant, in Calabasas, California.
For someone like Holly Hoopingarner, who grew up watching Bryant dominate the game, this news came as a shock, almost as something unreal.
“My initial reaction was that that’s got to be a fake news type of thing,” Hoopingarner said. “I was just in shock that something so tragic could happen.”
Hoopingarner, one of the team leaders on an IUPUI squad that is leading the Horizon League, is having a solid season. Over 26 games played, she is averaging 9.5 points per game to go along with 3.9 assists and 2.9 rebounds.
The brand of basketball that Hoopingarner plays is modeled in part after Bryant’s game. Although she lives by the pull-up jumper, her attention to detail comes from observing how Bryant prepared for games. The little things she devotes her time to, right down to her foot placement, comes from Bryant.
“Kobe cared about every single little detail,” Hoopingarner said. “That’s something that I’ve always tried to put emphasis on in my game.”
An aspect of life that Bryant put emphasis on, especially after retiring, was the world of women’s sports. Oftentimes, Bryant could be found voicing his support of the WNBA. In 2018, he founded the Mamba Sports Academy, where Gigi played via the youth program, which is dedicated to helping both boys and girls reach their potential.
To Hoopingarner and teammate Natalie Andersen, the fact the Bryant was so vocal in support of women’s sports added to the crushing blow of losing him.
“Obviously, he had daughters who were involved in sports,” Hoopingarner said. “It’s a huge loss as far as how outspoken he was for supporting the women’s side.”
“It’s crazy the impact he’s had, not only on the basketball world, but the stuff he’s done outside of that after his career was over,” Andersen said. “You don’t necessarily need to know someone personally to be impacted by their passing.”
Andersen has been a great asset at guard for the Lady Jags this year, given that she is only a freshman. She is averaging 7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1 assist per game through 26 games. She too has modeled part of her game after Bryant. In fact, the number she wears on her back is 24. She has worn it for her hero and will continue to wear it in his honor.
Although Anderson is younger than many of her teammates, she still remembers the majority of Bryant’s career. His final game in the NBA stands out to her. She, like so many others, marveled at his exit from the game, in which he scored a total of 60 points, with 23 coming in the fourth quarter, helping his Lakers pull off a comeback win.
Hoopingarner also has fond memories of Bryant’s career. She and her father were in attendance for Bryant’s final game in Indianapolis in February 2016. Although the Pacers won the game, Bryant scored 19 points, with 11 coming in the final quarter.
Hoopingarner watched Bryant score 81 in a game against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006. She watched as Bryant knocked down shot after shot, some of which other NBA players wouldn’t have dared to take.
“In my opinion, he is our generation’s Michael Jordan because we’re too young to have watched Michael play throughout his career, but I remember every day, every game, watching Kobe,” Hoopingarner said.
Lady Jags head coach Austin Parkinson had an intense reaction to the news of Bryant’s passing, given that he has a 3-year-old daughter of his own.
“As a father, you want to be able to protect your child,” Parkinson said. “To not be able to that, but at the same time be with them, I think the idea of them being in a better place, together, is somewhat of a solace for what’s an awful situation.”
Parkinson has led the Lady Jags to an impressive 19-7 record, with a 13-2 record in Horizon League play. Dating back to December 30 of last year, the Lady Jags are 13-1. The sole loss during that stretch came against Northern Kentucky on February 15. They Lady Jags will look to bounce back from the loss by grabbing a win against Milwaukee on February 21.
The Lady Jags recently sealed the top seed in the Horizon League Tournament, which begins on March 3. The final two rounds of the tournament will be played at Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum right here in Indianapolis.
When reflecting on what Kobe means to her, Hoopingarner remembers the legacy of the Mamba Mentality. Although she has been on a bit of a slump as of late, scoring a total of 40 points while only making 26.8% of her shots, she will channel the Mamba Mentality in the upcoming Horizon League Tournament.
“You don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from doing anything, whether it’s taking the game winning shot, even if you missed twenty shots,” Hoopingarner said. “You’re gonna take the next one because you think the next one’s going in.”
“Rugby is more than just a sport. It’s a lifestyle, actually.”
Levi Hawk, a junior studying social studies and special education at IUPUI, is all about rugby. He has played for twelve years. Hawk got into the sport because he wanted to play something other than baseball in the spring. He had played football and had enjoyed the physicality of the game. Rugby was a spring sport that featured the same trait. Thus, Hawk began his playing career in the Brownsburg Youth Program at age 10.
Hawk continued to play rugby throughout middle school and high school, playing at Avon. Hawk has played for the rugby club throughout his time at IUPUI and is currently in his second year as a team captain, a duty he shares with Zach Harlan.
“It’s more authority than anything,” Hawk said. “Basically, if one of the captains are saying something, it’s more of, like, they’ve done it before.”
The IUPUI Rugby Club plays two different styles of the sport: fifteens, played in the fall, and sevens, played in the spring. Fifteens is the classic version of rugby with 15 players. While still conforming to the same rules and regulations of rugby as fifteens, sevens has many variations. Among these are fewer scrums, a shorter playing time and a team consisting of seven players. In sevens, there are two, seven-minute halves, as opposed to the 80-minute game time in fifteens. This difference in time allows for a greater quantity of sevens games in one day.
Hawk plays different positions depending on whether he is participating in sevens or fifteens. In fifteens, Hawk is a flanker. There are two flankers in rugby, one being the openside flanker, the other being the blindside flanker. As a blindside flanker, Hawk is positioned in the back row of a scrum on the outside. On defense, Hawk’s job is to prevent the back, who is the player in possession of the ball, from making progress down the field. He would do this by tackling the ball carrier and attempting to steal the ball. When IUPUI has possession of the ball, Hawk’s job as a flanker is to keep track of the ball and to ensure that the backs maintain possession.
Occasionally, Hawk will take up the eighth-man role in fifteens. The eighth-man lines up at the back of the scrum and is the player who receives the ball if the scrum is won. Like a flanker, the eighth-man is a defensive key to a team.
In sevens, Hawk is a prop. Other than pushing the opposing team in the front line of a scrum in an attempt to move the ball, the prop has the responsibility of lift man. This means that the prop lifts the lock, who is the player that attempts to catch the ball on the inbound, which starts the scrum.
“They are all equal fun, but when I play eight or flanker, I play across from my brother,”
Hawk said in a text. “Playing near someone I trust is tremendously fun.”
When he isn’t playing Rugby, Hawk works as a stone mason for Monumental Stone Works in Crawfordsville. In his free time, Hawk plays the piano with his brothers. Both of his brothers, Adam and Luke, play rugby as well. Adam is a member of the IUPUI Rugby Club. Luke will play for the rugby club starting next fall.
Hawk also loves superhero movies. He is excited about the slate of superhero movies that are hitting theaters in the upcoming weeks, including “Shazam!” “Hellboy” and of course “Avengers Endgame.” Hawk is also an avid fan of “The Office.”
“I’ve watched it seven times,” Hawk said. “I’m on my eighth right now.”
Currently in the spring season, Hawk has led the IUPUI Rugby Club in two tournaments, one in Kentucky, the other in Tennessee. The club, a Division II team, participates in tournaments that often features Division I talent. Hawk is proud to say that his team holds up well against the Division I teams.
Although the IUPUI Rugby Club was founded a short five years ago, it is becoming one of the better clubs in the country. In the Kentucky Tournament, Hawk’s team beat Ohio State and lost to Kentucky in the semi-final. Hawk cites this quick success to the dedication and intensity of the coaches. The current coach, Joey Richards, was Hawk’s coach when he first started playing youth rugby.
“Right now, we have a really serious coach and he’s trying to take [the program] off,” Hawk said. “He’s good at communicating how to play the game.”
The IUPUI Rugby Club has put a lot of effort in to recruiting, which is done entirely by students. As a part of the recruiting board, Hawk puts time into finding high school talent. Avon and Brownsburg often produce great players, but out-of-state talent is also considered. In fact, the rugby club has had two recruits on the roster from California. Hawk believes that the club’s strong recruiting efforts are another key to their success.
“It’s just everywhere, rugby’s everywhere, especially the with success that we’ve had the past two years, going from not even making Nationals to winning conference as well as making a National game,” Hawk said.
The combination of great coaching and strong recruiting has enabled the IUPUI Rugby Club to appear in Nationals, the playoff for rugby clubs, the past two fall seasons. To qualify for Nationals, a club must win its conference. IUPUI competes in the Midwest College Conference. Next fall, Hawk will look to lead his team to a third consecutive Nationals appearance. Next weekend, Hawk will lead his
team in their first springtime Nationals appearance.
After he wraps up his college career, Hawk would like to continue playing rugby.
“I’m a competitor,” Hawk said. “This is where I’m going to win.”
Hawk has a great profile to show to recruiters as well. Along with being captain of the club, he has won Conference Player of the Year once. He was also ranked seventh at his position nationally in fifteens.
If Hawk doesn’t continue his playing career, he would like to coach instead. He currently coaches the rugby squad at Avon and would like to continue to do so. However, Hawk would be open to other coaching opportunities.
“I would like to see if I could could back here and coach, you know, just with all the history,” Hawk said.
Although not many students know about the IUPUI Rugby Club, Hawk believes that students enjoy it. He has seen attendance at the games increase throughout his time as a player. He also believes that anyone can play rugby and that it’s a great way for students to find entertainment.
“Rugby is a great sport to watch,” Hawk said. “You don’t have to know a lot to go, ‘Wow, that was fun.’”
Games are held at Carroll Stadium. Admission to home games is free for anyone who wants to watch the IUPUI Rugby Club. Their schedule can be found on their Instagram and Facebook pages.
Silver linings are often coveted when everything else is not going great. This season, the Jags are off to a slow 2-6 start in Horizon League play and a 5-17 start overall following a loss to Northern Kentucky on Saturday. The silver lining? Freshman Hannah Oehlberg.
Oehlberg is from DeKalb, Ill. She played for four years at DeKalb High School and helped to take her team further in the state tournament than the school had ever gone before. The competitive volleyball program is what drew her to IUPUI. Fast forward to the thick of the Jags’ season, and she loves everything about it.
On the season, Oehlberg has 56 kills and 53 digs in 26 sets played. Saturday, against Northern Kentucky, she had arguably her best outing so far this season. She had 11 kills, eight digs and two blocks. Her performance was enough to impress head coach Steve Payne.
“I put her in to start, and she put a little spark in there,” Payne said. “As a freshman, I think she did a pretty good job out there today.”
The talent is there, but what really makes Oehlberg a silver lining is her attitude and work ethic. After the match, she was brief in describing what she liked about her performance. She had a few critiques of her game, though. “Service game wasn’t my strongest point from tonight,” she said. “Just reading the back more too. Doing what works.”
Oehlberg stressed watching film and working hard in the gym as a method of turning the season around. “I work hardest on changing up the shots I am hitting so that when I am playing I can make a positive impact on the court and add to our points and kills,” she said.
She preached dedication to the program. She urged looking at stats to see what needs to be improved. As a freshman on a team that has three seniors, this is a great sign for the future. Oehlberg also takes in all she can from Maggie Gibson, Abby Boatman and Elizabeth Scott, the team’s seniors. “They’re very helpful… very intense about dedication to the program,” she said. She credits the senior members of the team for teaching her how to stay committed to her craft.
One of the most encouraging things a young player, or any player for that matter, can have is a humble attitude. Oehlberg didn’t hesitate to credit her setters for her 11 kills. “They set us up for success,” she said. Oehlberg also praised her teammates for being mentally prepared. “Knowing where you’re going to put the ball and what their defense will do,” she said. “I didn’t expect to play a lot but I’ve just been working as hard as I can so that I can get to that spot and help,” she said.
Hannah Oehlberg is a silver lining for this Jags team. She makes an effort to learn as much as she can from the seniors so that she can help the team be successful in the future. Her countless hours spent in the gym, coupled with her natural talent, mental preparedness and the fact that she is only a freshman bodes well for the future of this team. Oehlberg is working to set up a successful career, and will be sure to make it known that any success is earned through effort.