Welcome to the next edition of the HeroSports Spotlight Series, a weekly piece in which we highlight an individual team with help from the team themselves. Our hope is to shed light on the tremendous effort and extraordinary collaboration required by coaches, players, and support staff to run a successful program. We want to give fans a window into the lives of players, recruits an idea of what to expect in the next step of their athletic careers, and alumni an update of how things are going at their alma mater.
Founded in 1902, halfway between Denver and Kansas City on the plains of Western Kansas, Fort Hays State is the second youngest of six state universities in the Sunflower State. FHSU has the lowest tuition rate of any Kansas Regents university, and one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation among four-year institutions according to a comprehensive report issued annually by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The FHSU campus sits on 4,160 acres of land that once was part of the historic Fort Hays frontier military post, and with its stately limestone buildings and profuse flowers, trees, and shrubs, the campus has been called the prettiest in Kansas.
With a total enrollment of 13,825 (4,800 of whom attend classes on campus), Fort Hays State supports one of the most extensive and successful intercollegiate athletics programs of any comparably sized college or university in America. The university boasts numerous All-American and national champions as alumni, and more than 400 active student-athletes competing annually in nine men’s and nine women’s sports.
One of the most successful athletic programs at Fort Hays State is the Women’s Basketball team, officially formed in 1969-70. The Tigers are 22-2 this year, their 43rd as a program, and boast an all-time program record of 749-460 (.620). This is the fourth consecutive season Fort Hays State has reached the 20-win plateau (a first in program history).
[two_third]The team went 34-2 in 1990-91 to win an NAIA National Championship and transitioned into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference of the NCAA Division II the following season. In 2006-07, 13 years after joining the RMAC, the Tigers moved to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association where they’ve been ever since.
Fort Hays State has been in the top 25 of our D2 Women’s Basketball rankings since the beginning of the season, and reached the top spot, BR-1, three weeks ago after back-to-back wins over BR-2 Pittsburg State and at BR-1 Emporia State. They retained their BR-1 ranking this week despite last week’s loss to the BR-5 Gorillas. With four games remaining in the regular season, they hold a one-game advantage over Pittsburg State for the conference lead.[/two_third][one_third_last]
|Fort Hays State Key Stats|
|Scoring Offense||75.5 (28th in D2)|
|Scoring Defense||54.1 (2nd)|
|Scoring Margin||21.5 (2nd)|
|Field-Goal Percentage||43.3 (41st)|
|Field-Goal Percentage Defense||34.1 (5th)|
|Assist-Turnover Ratio||1.42 (1st)|
If they are able to close out the season with wins over BR-31 Washburn, at BR-105 Nebraska-Kearney, at BR-45 Central Oklahoma, and at BR-123 Northeastern State they would guarantee themselves the MIAA title, the first in team history. It would also be their first ever outright conference title as an NCAA Division II program.
Meet The Coach
- Won his 500th career game last season on Dec. 7, 2013 in a 67-53 win at Missouri Western
- Has four 20-win seasons at FHSU (most among any coach in FHSU history)
- Current .646 winning percentage, 124-68 (third-highest in FHSU history)
- Ranks in the Top 10 for winning percentage in the NCAA among active four-year coaches (.755, 334-109)
We asked coach Hobson some questions about himself, his team, and his career.
- What’s special about this 2014-15 team?
“We have a unique blend of experience, meaning we’re starting two seniors and two juniors. We’ve got sophomores in the program, so I think we’ve got a lot of experience and that helps. I just think we’re strong at the key positions, which is always point guard and post. Not that we aren’t solid at the other places, but we’re good at the post, and we’re deep at the point, so that helps.”
You’ve had teams nationally ranked each of the last three seasons. What’s it taken to get the program to thatlevel?
“We had a couple setbacks early, or we might have got there a little sooner. Everybody has those injuries and other unforeseen circumstances, but it’s been really gratifying watching people come in as freshmen, gradually go through our program for four years and just help it grow.
“It was a stability thing. First, we got some stability with good, solid players and good students and good people, and that helped attract more good players. It’s been a slow process. It’s hard to turn it around at this level compared to other levels that I’ve been at because it just takes longer because there’s more good players with the other teams. It’s been a process.”
- Personally, you’ve now won over 500 games at collegiate level. What’s that been like and how have you gotten there?
“It means that I’ve been at schools where winning was important and where they supported the programs. I’ve never wanted to coach somewhere that wasn’t like that. So that first and foremost, but secondly, you have to go in there with a belief that, first of all, you can win there. Everybody says, ‘Hey, are you going to work your magic?’ Well, there’s a lot more work into it than there is magic. It’s happened about every place that I’ve been where you go into a situation that’s not ideal, or at least they haven’t won. Then you just kind of start and do just like we did here. You just build a little bit at a time.”
- What are some of the pros of the women’s basketball program here in Hays?
“I don’t think you have to go very far to find one of the primary perks, and that is look at a box score from our Saturday game (Feb. 7 versus Emporia State) and look at the announced attendance. I’ll bet you that there was not 30 Division I games in the United States in the past couple of weeks that had 5,000 people at it. So right there, it tells you that you have community support. You got a good group of administrative people that are promoting and helping get people and getting interest in the community. So that’s a big perk. The other thing that our atmosphere at games and the importance of our program is obvious. One of the perks of working here is you work for an athletic director that lets you do your job and gives you what you need to do your job, leaves you alone, and lets you do it. Very few places are like it. You don’t get all of those things. We understand that we need to be successful, and I don’t want to take a job where they don’t expect you to be successful. That’s just the support and interest that is generated, and of course it grows when you have a good team, but it has to go both ways.”
Game day at Gross Memorial Coliseum is a memorable experience. One of the largest basketball facilities in Division II (seating capacity of 6,814), Gross Coliseum offers a friendly atmosphere to fans and a tough venue for opponents. Since the arrival of Coach Hobson seven years ago, Fort Hays State has protected its home court well, putting together an 85-19 record in 104 games.
Before the team takes the court, however, several things must happen in the days leading up. Coaches spend the week watching game film for offensive and defensive breakdowns, focusing on opponent team and individual tendencies. Their key focus is to make sure the entire team is prepared, that each player knows the opposition and is ready to step up at any time in the game.
FHSU typically plays their games weekday evenings and weekend afternoons. No matter when they play, the game day routine gets rolling a few hours before tip – when the players arrive for a pre-game shoot-around as a team. From there, the players head to the locker room for a game day devotional (prepared by assistant coach Talia Miller).
According to graduate assistant coach Kelsie Sorenson, those game day devotionals cover a variety of topics.
“Sometimes we talk about using the gifts we are blessed with, other times it is the importance of living in the moment and realizing how special this group of ladies is,” Sorenson said.
After that, it’s time for one last look at the scouting report and some discussion on last-minute adjustments. Players typically take the court as early as 90 minutes before tip-off to shoot around and get focused. While pregame music can’t be controlled on the road, things get serious at Gross Coliseum with 48 minutes on the clock as the squad lines up for stretching and Nappy Roots’ “Good Day,” comes through the speakers.
“During my freshman year we had it on our warmup CD and it just kind of stuck,” senior Kate Lehman. “It’s become a tradition that we can’t start our warmup lines until it’s playing, and it gets us in the right mindset for games. I think it represents our attitudes well.”
From there, players amp it up until tip with layup lines, offensive and defensive drills, and individual rituals until public address announcer Ken Windholz fills the Coliseum with “Fans, it’s time for another showdown, right here in Tiger Town!”
Hometown: Dwight, Nebraska
FHSU point guard Beth Bohuslavsky is Consistent with a capital C. The team’s assist-leader, nationally-ranked in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of the past two seasons, Bohuslavsky anchors the Tigers’ lineup as a true floor-general.
“The definition of the point guard is quarterback,” Bohuslavsky said. “That’s what the quarterback does on the football team and that’s just how I’ve grown up and been taught. When you’re out there, you have to take control or you let your emotions take over. That can’t happen, because basketball is such a fast-paced game that you’ve got to move past your mistakes. I was raised to do that and it’s carried over to the basketball court.”
Learning the game was part of Bohuslavsky’s childhood, but she made a name for herself with Seward High School in Seward, Nebraska, finishing her career with four state championships, and not a single loss; she and her teammates went a perfect 101-0.
“Looking back I never would’ve said that would’ve happened,” Bohuslavsky said. “We had a little bit of luck and some good athletes on the team and bought in. We approached every game and practice the same way and it led us to very successful high school careers.”
That approach is part of the reason Bohuslavsky thinks coach Hobson brought her to Hays.
“I think as a coach you always want a player who knows how to win, who can win, so I think that definitely helped,” Bohuslavsky said. “That’s not the full reason why I’m here but that definitely helps. Winning here is definitely a lot tougher, you’re obviously going to play against tougher athletes and all that, but I think it has helped. I know what it takes to win at a college level.”
What it takes, Bohuslavsky mentioned, is sticking with what got her here: serving as a pass-first guard and being a leader on the court.
“It’s my job to take care of the ball,” Bohuslavsky said. “I’m not a flashy scorer here, but I get my points within the offense, get the ball in the right spots for the team to be successful, and try to create shots for my teammates. That’s when we’re successful, when I can create shots for other players.”
Fans who watch Beth on a nightly basis will see different styles of play from the junior throughout the year, sometimes driving the lane, other times sitting back and pulling the trigger on a well-timed pass. Night-in and night-out, however, they see an emotional leader who dishes out fist-pumps and high-fives early and often.
“I feel like positive energy feeds off onto our team, and that’ll feed off into the crowd and then it gets loud,” Bohuslavsky said. “I think that excites us all and makes us play harder. In high school I always did that. I was the first to give a high five after a made shot and just being that complimentary leader out there. I just think we feed off of each other, that builds team chemistry and that leads to success.
Finding success is tough at any level, but Bohuslavsky has a knack for it. She’s been on the floor for the better part of the Tigers’ rise into the national spotlight, worn the black and gold for three 20-win seasons, and seen her squad nationally ranked at least one week of every season she’s been on the team.
“That’s a team goal to win 20 each year, and we normally don’t get that until postseason but now we’ve gotten it in the regular season,” Bohuslavsky said. “You know, it’s pretty neat to be in Fort Hays’ history and all that, but I know I won’t really think about it until it’s over and looking back we’ll understand it.”
Bohuslavsky’s poise on the court has been key to the Tigers’ success this season, and though she’s confident in her team, she knows this experience is a special one.
“It’s been a fun season,” Bohuslavsky said. “It’s kind of unreal just because who would’ve thought this would happen. We lost two big seniors last season (graduation), and lost guard Taylor (Chandler) to an injury before the season. I mean I kind of would’ve said this would never happen, but it’s been fun, we’ve been enjoying it and we’ll try to keep it rolling.”
Hometown: Newton, Kansas
A glimpse at Kate Lehman’s career statistics will tell you one thing: the Tigers’ starting center is dominant. Numbers tell only a part of the story, however, as the senior from Newton, Kansas has worked hard to become one of the top players in D2 women’s hoops.
This season Lehman is averaging 20.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, making her the top scorer and second-leading rebounder in the MIAA – a conference with three teams ranked in the BR Top 5. She also has 103 blocks on the season, marking the third consecutive year that the 6-foot-4 post has passed the 100-swat mark. It should come as no surprise then, that Lehman holds the school and MIAA records for blocks in a single-season (155 last season) and in a career (currently at 477).
Her numbers even more impressive when you understand the context. Lehman doesn’t just own the school’s single-season block record — her four seasons take up the top four spots. She has improved every year: 96 as a freshman, 123 as a sophomore, 155 as a junior, and 103 so far this season. The player who owned the single-season FHSU record before Lehman was Erica Biel, who had 64 in the 2009-10 season. Before last season, the MIAA team record for blocks in a season was 186 (set by the Tigers the year before). Then Lehman had her 155-block season and helped FHSU blow that record out of the water. They finished with 219.
In addition to her numerous rejection records, Lehman is also FHSU’s career rebounding leader (1,029) and ranks third on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,746). She will almost certainly take the No. 2 spot before the end of the season.
The only 1,000 points/1,000 rebounds player to ever play at Fort Hays State, Lehman has three triple-doubles and 52 doubles-doubles in her career, and has put together three separate streaks of eight or more consecutive games with a double-double. She’s averaged a double-double over the last two seasons.
On a national level, Lehman is fourth on the all-time NCAA Division II blocks list, and is on pace to reach the No. 2 spot on that list by year’s end.
“The records are great, but it means more that I have the support to help me get there,” Lehman said. “I have great guards who throw the ball into the post, great defenders who trust me to make a play on the back end and great coaches who work hard to put us in a position to be successful. My team trusts me and I trust them and it sets us up for success.”
Lehman has been voted the MIAA Women’s Basketball Athlete of the Week seven times this season and 15 times in her career. Her personal success and the team’s continuing rise are no coincidence.
“This year has been great,” Lehman said. “We’ve put ourselves in a great spot to be successful headed into postseason play, and now we just have to worry about ourselves. We control our own destiny, so we’ll look to finish strong.”
With such a successful career, it’s easy to ask why Lehman (arguably one of the great Division II women’s basketball players of all-time) chose FHSU. That question, however, is often followed with a no-doubt-about-it response from Lehman.
“Fort Hays State was the first to offer me, so I signed,” Lehman said. “It’s been the best decision I could’ve made. We have the best coaches and the best teammates here. I love them, I love the program, I love the town, I love the school and I love my teachers.”
Lehman credits coach Hobson and other staff for recognizing the talent she had coming out of a small town high school and giving her a chance to grow.
“We have the best coaching staff around,” Lehman said. “I’m so thankful for what they’ve done for me.”
Hometown: Deweese, Nebraska
A veteran leader on this year’s team, Keriann Shaw has established a reputation as one of the toughest defenders in the MIAA. Shaw has started every game this season and ranks second on the team with 6.7 rebounds per game. She’s inching closer and closer to her 500th career-rebound as the season winds down.
- What makes this team special?
“This group of girls and everyone finding a role on the team.”
- Arguably one of the toughest conferences in Division II – how do you prepare for those intense contests weekly?
“We go into each game with the mentality that it’s the most important game of the season.”
- You’ve won at least 20 games in every season you’ve been here – what’s it like to be a part of that type of streak?
“It’s amazing and great to see an improvement every year.”
- What’s a normal day in-season look like for you?
“I wake up around 8 a.m., have breakfast, study, classes, shooting extra shots, lunch, homework and practice, supper, sleep. It’s a lot of time management but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Hometown: Hays, Kansas
Paige Lunsford broke into the Tigers’ starting lineup this season and has started all 24 games, playing an average of 23.2 minutes per contest. Lunsford is known for her strong defense and physical play on the boards – grabbing 4.1 rebounds and scoring 5.7 points per game.
- What’s your style of play – how do you define a successful game?
“I would say my style of play includes me being mentally sharp. I’m not the most athletic person on the court, so I have to know what my opponent is trying to do. I try and focus on doing the little things right. I would define a successful game as one where everyone played as hard as they could and left everything on the court.”
- You stayed in your hometown to wear FHSU Black and Gold. Why?
“Growing up in Hays, I’ve always just loved the community. I knew that by staying here I was going to have an amazing opportunity to play under a great coaching staff and be part of a really solid program. I also get the chance to play in an awesome facility in front of great fans, which is really special.”
- What’s the most challenging part of being a student-athlete?
“I think the most challenging part is just having good time management. You have to stay organized.”
- What else do you do at FHSU to get involved, besides being a member of the basketball team?
“Outside of basketball, I am involved with Encounter (a college-aged ministry student organization), Fellowship of Christian Athletes and SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee).”
- Walk me through a normal day?
“Normally, I wake up around 7:30 a.m., and get ready for class, where I normally am until 1 p.m. Once that’s done, I eat lunch and work on homework until I get ready for practice around 3:15 p.m. Practice starts at 4:15 p.m. and we normally go until 6 p.m. After that I go home and eat supper and then if I have stuff going on for the other organizations I’m involved in, I go and do that. Then I try to finish up any homework and be in bed by 11 p.m.”
Hometown: Bellevue, Nebraska
Chelsea Mason is in her second season at FHSU after transferring in from Kennesaw State in 2013. She led the team in three-pointers last season, hitting 50 of her 162 attempts to land herself at number nine on the FHSU list for the most made three-point field goals in a season. Through 24 games this year, she’s already matched her season total from a year ago and jumped into the top ten on the school’s all-ti