It was a play that perfectly defined Ashley Dexter's athleticism.|
While on defense, the St. Ambrose University standout tips away a pass that goes back over her opponent's head. She regains her balance after making the initial deflection, speeds all the way to the opposite end line, where she gains possession of the ball.
A typical play for the All-American soccer player?
But this play came in the Midwest Collegiate Conference women's basketball championship contest and, like many of her other hustle plays, helped spark the 28-4 Queen Bees to more success. This one came in the game that punched SAU's ticket to the 20th annual State Farm-NAIA Div. II Women's Basketball National Championship that begins this week in Sioux City, Iowa.
Not bad for a player who had to be talked into playing basketball by the former coaching regime and many of the current seniors. She also had to be coaxed into playing again this past fall after her All-American soccer campaign.
"I came to Ambrose for soccer initially, and only for soccer,'' said Dexter. "I liked it (playing basketball), but I wasn't totally set on coming back because I wasn't sure how my body would hold up.
"I started talking to coach (first-year coach Krista Van Hauen) and we figured things out with soccer and with school and she kind of talked me into playing.''
Dexter is glad she listened.
Just recalling that play in the MCC title clash brought a smile to her face as she had to balance pride and humility.
Plays such as that, though, are typical for the 5-foot-4 Dexter, the former North Scott High School two-sport standout who is leaving a huge imprint on the SAU campus in both sports.
"She's a spark on defense,'' said senior basketball captain Ali Dolphin, an NAIA All-American who knows about making great plays on the court. "She's always getting her hands on the ball and making such great steals.''
"She's absolutely ridiculous,'' said junior Annie Smith. "I wouldn't want to be a point guard dribbling against her; I'd probably get the ball stolen from me every time. She's incredibly quick and never lets up on defense. She's one of our best defenders, to be perfectly honest.
"She's pretty little, but if you want steals, quickness, and hustle, Dexter's your person. She gets the job done.''
Of late, Dexter has been getting the job done on both ends of the court for the Queen Bees. Getting her basketball legs under her after an All-American soccer season, Dexter has emerged as the prototypical point guard. She has started the last 16 games, averages 6.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. She has 110 assists and 59 steals in 28 games.
"She has improved so much since the third week of November when she joined our team,'' said Van Hauen. "At first, she was just known as the passer or for her defense. Then, when (then starting point guard Megan) Cash got hurt, she had to pick up her scoring to help us through that stretch. Now, it's nice that at the end of the season she's doing both. We don't need her to score all those points, but it does help. She's taking care of the ball, she's dishing out the ball, she's playing defense and her energy level is amazing. ... She's just a competitor.''
In the 79-72 MCC title game victory over William Penn, Dexter broke loose for 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals in a team-high 39 minutes.
All in a day's work for Dexter, who could give the Energizer Bunny a run for it money.
"I've got bruises, scars, scratches, the whole works, but that's just part of the sport, but that's why I like it and why I play,'' said Dexter. "Hitting the grass or hitting the hardwood, it all feels the same pretty much. It's not a comfortable feeling.''
Yet, it doesn't stop her from giving her all for the good of the team.
And Van Hauen thinks she has so much more to give when it come to hoops.
"The funny thing is, she doesn't spend a lick of time on basketball,'' said Van Hauen. "She is such a natural athlete and she plays so hard and with a higher energy level.
"I hope this success puts a fire in her and that she spends at least 30 minutes a day on basketball. If she does that, she's going to be an amazing basketball player for us the next two years.''
As long as soccer doesn't take precedence.
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