Seniors lead No. 18 Washburn

Mikki Burcher

Writer Peter Drucker once described leaders as being “people who never think about ‘I.’

They think ‘we,’ they think ‘team.'” On the basketball floor, as well, there is no “I,” but only a team.

The Washburn Lady Blues basketball team is starting up another season. It starts the season with a No. 18 ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Division II Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll. The ranking comes with the help of leadership from a group of seniors, some new and some returning.

Returning senior Brette Ulsaker, a 5’9″ guard from McPherson started her college career at the Univerity of Utah, but transferred to Washburn as a sophomore. She is pleased with the way the team is coming together, but has mixed feelings about the Lady Blues preseason ranking of 18th in Division II. She is happy that they were ranked in the top 25, but wishes that the team’s position could have been higher, but “it gives us a mountain to climb,” she said.

In her three years as a Lady Blue, Ulsaker remembers some distinctive victories.

“We lost to Central Missouri at home by one in a questionable game with some questionable calls,” said Ulsaker. “We went up there and beat them by like 27, I think.”

Ulsaker also commented on the team’s new offense. Implementing a new offense takes a lot of hard work, but Ulsaker feels that she can help her teammates.

“I think I understand what coach wants out of us, so I plan on showing what he wants from us and helping younger players or newcomers understand what he wants,” she said.

Another returning senior this year is Dayna Rodriguez, a 6’2″ center from Cuba. She played at Miami Dade College and then transferred to Washburn. Rodriguez isn’t concerned with Washburn’s preseason ranking, but instead is focused on how the team will play in the future.

“Everyone plays like us, they want to win. But in the games there are always winners and losers, so we just play,” said Rodriguez who hopes to lead the team by ergizing her teammates and helping them be more comfortable on the floor.

This year there are two transfer seniors. One of these is guard Amanda Fessenden. New to Washburn from Florida Gulf Coast University, Fessenden is prepared to have a good year with the Lady Blues.

“We have had two exhibition games already, and we’ve had bursts in those games where you can see that we’ll be good,” she said.

Fessenden also believes that the current ranking might not stand with the addition of nine new players to the team.

“We have a lot of newcomers, so there’s really no saying what we should be ranked at,” said Fessenden who plans on leading by example and showing younger players how to do things right.

Even with all her college basketball experience, there is one game that Fessenden just can’t shake and it came in high school. As a senior, she lead her team to the state tournament where they faced Wichita Heights. Her team was losing by 18 at half, but they battled back to cut the deficit to three. With seconds left on the clock, Fessenden was wide open for a three, but a win wasn’t in the cards for her team.

“It just leaves a sour taste in my mouth,” said Fessenden.

Another transfer senior is Rose Hammond. She brings tournament experience from her time with Oklahoma State, who made it to the final four.

“Every win on the way there was something big,” she said. “It was something that I had never experienced.”

Even though she is unfamiliar with the program at Washburn and with Division II ball in general, Hammond is settling into the team and is ready for the season.

“I’m just trying to fit in and get some team chemistry,” Hammond said. “I came here to win games. I can contribute.”

The senior Lady Blues said they look forward to a stronger fan base this year, which they think will get the team going toward a great season.

“I think we’re going to surprise people,” said Hammond.