Farm-raised athlete inspires us all

It was a very big night for our small town. The Ashland University, Ohio women’s basketball team took the floor in San Antonio to battle for NCAA Division II national championship, and left no doubt that they were in it to win it.

It is the first national team title ever for the long-established university, and follows last year’s overtime loss in the national title game.

For those who couldn’t travel to San Antonio to cheer the team in person, many in my community gathered just about any place the game was being televised, hoping for a celebration when the final minutes ticked off the clock. We were not disappointed.

An amazing group of girls who love the sport and enjoy great teamwork, from the moment of the first whistle, it was clear this team was hitting on all cylinders. With the final score of 71-56, the Lady Eagles left no doubt this team is made up of champions.

Led by farm girl

Elite Eight Most Outstanding Player Kari Daugherty, a farm girl from Fresno, Ohio, played her final college game with gusto. Her 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks all were game-high numbers and earned her a 25th double-double this season, breaking what had earlier been a tie for the nation’s lead.

The second of four children, Kari grew up on her family’s 1,000-acre dairy farm, and spent much of her free time on the basketball court her parents put in near the family home. Before basketball, though, the farm chores needed to be done.

Solid foundation

In an ESPN article written about Kari and her older sister Kristin in 2011, Graham Hays wrote, “There were plenty of chores to fight over if ammunition for arguments ran low — the monotony of milking the cows was the task most eagerly avoided, as Kari explained, especially on mornings their grandfather couldn’t come help their father start the process and the alarm went off with dawn still just a rumor.”

In each interview I have seen, this impressive young woman is quick to give credit to God, followed by offering kudos to her teammates, her coach, and her family.

Excelling both in sports and in the classroom, it is obvious Kari learned a solid work ethic along life’s way.

Kari and her sister Kristin dominated the floor when playing together in high school, with next younger sister Andi and their youngest and only brother serving as “ball boys” to the team.

Their parents, Bill and Caroline Daugherty, each carry impressive basketball histories, with Bill inducted into Wilmington College’s Hall of Fame, and Caroline a member of Ohio University’s Hall of Fame.

Farm accident

When Kristin was a junior and Kari a freshman in high school, the duo went from all-out sisterly competitiveness to team camaraderie. Their brother, Kyle, had lost a leg in an accident on the farm just the year before.

“That trauma drove home the permanence of family and the fickleness of life,” Hays wrote. (Editor’s note: You can also read the story Farm and Dairy wrote about the family’s tragedy and resilience.)

Basketball, with their parents coaching, gave the entire family a positive focus and a wonderful outlet. River View High won state titles in each of the two seasons Kristin and Kari played together.

When Kari decided to transfer from the University of Dayton to Ashland University, it was the first time the sisters wouldn’t be shooting hoops together. When a knee injury forced Kari on to the sidelines this winter, it was feared she may not be able to complete her senior year’s basketball season. Instead, after sitting out eight games, she came back strong, finishing the national title game with stellar stats. She scored the game’s first points, had an assist and three rebounds in the first 2 minutes of play.

Her focus now is on her July wedding to Brad Pickens, but she told the Ashland Times-Gazette reporter Doug Haidet that she would love to keep playing basketball.

“We’ll see where God leads me with that.”

She added that she is excited to watch her younger teammates next year, singing their praises as “some of the best out there.”

No matter what comes next, it has been sheer joy to cheer for such a positive young woman. In a world in which role models are sorely needed, this farm girl from Fresno stands impressive and tall.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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