When the North Central University women’s basketball team won the UMAC championship and progressed to the NCAA DIII National Tournament, it was a dream come true and a historic moment for the school. Hannah Grubbs, a senior journalism major and Rams guard, described the night as a surreal experience for the team.
Grubbs grew up watching March Madness, never once imagining that she would be a part of the D3 level. Being able to see the names of her team members on the big TV screen, traveling, and playing in a packed gymnasium only added to the memorability and wonder of this event. After gaining a steady momentum at the start of the season, COVID forced the Rams to slow down and reprioritize their team goals and strategies for the remaining games. They focused a lot of time and energy on trusting both the process on the court and their teammates. Communication became the key, especially in a packed gym. “We had to be steady and realize that if they score or go on a run, it’s okay; we’ll bounce back,” stated Grubbs. The women’s basketball team did just that. This season not only boasted NCU’s first-ever UMAC Tournament Championship title, but the longest winning streak, the best winning percentage, and the most UMAC wins.
Behind the team and these statistics is seven year veteran Head Coach Paul Brunner ’14, ’22 M.A. “We tried all season long to be intentional with our mission as a Christ-centered basketball program that develops champions and graduates leaders,” Brunner said. “For us, this means it’s less about how we play and more about who we desire to become—as athletes, students, leaders, and people.” Brunner said the team never stated a specific goal to win the UMAC but instead focused all their energy and effort on becoming the type of people that would be able to accomplish things we desired. “We often used the phrase, ‘Who we become is far more important than what we achieve,’” Brunner said. “The ‘who’ our players became is what I am most proud of as I reflect on this season.”
Despite being historic and exhilarating, the end of the season was bittersweet for Grubbs and the other upper-class students. Seven seniors played their last season and said farewell to the court. Grubbs remarked that the upperclassman put in hard work and extra time, pushing towards success and UMAC Championship because they would only have that chance once. “Most people don’t recognize what goes into having a historic season like this,” Brunner said, “and the students deserve all of the credit. This season was so special for our program because we felt embraced by the entire university, and we always felt like we were a part of something much bigger than just ourselves. As we talked as a team after the season, we all agreed that trophies are cool, but relationships are cooler.”
Written by ShaeLynn Erickson One of North Central University’s core desires as an institution is to love our neighbors well. This heavenly calling guides the