After a record-breaking season and a Centennial Conference Championship win for the third consecutive year, it seems there is no stopping this dominating team. Not to mention, the program has won a total of ten championships, eight of which were under the leadership of Head Coach Ron Rohn.

“We’ve had great success, especially over the past 12 years … winning eight Championships in the last 12 years, and playing in nine Championship games and nine NCAA Tournaments. The first two championships were in 1997 and 1998 before I got here. Tammy Smith was the coach at that time,” said Rohn.

Rohn came to Muhlenberg after head coaching at Division I Colgate University in 2001. He was originally from the Lehigh Valley area and was thrilled to return to his home and work at a school where basketball fits into the daily lives of the players. Rohn enjoyed coming to Muhlenberg, as “the Division III model made student-athletes full-fledged college students, not basketball players trying to squeeze in college classes during their day fit well with my own beliefs. I’m just proud that our team and players represent Muhlenberg College in the way it deserves to be represented.”

Such a mindset fits well within a small school such as Muhlenberg, and has aided in the team’s success throughout the last decade and more. Rohn believes maintaining well-rounded players is important in building character and success. “Our success this season follows a familiar theme over the 16 years I’ve been at Muhlenberg; very talented and motivated women who have a passion to play basketball and a driving desire to win, players who are outstanding people, not just athletes. They are successful in the classroom and have diverse interests, and it makes for a great atmosphere to be around.”

After Rohn became coach, it was a rough five years until 2006, when the team won their third championship. The team took off from there, winning the championship in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Coach Rohn has helped lead the team to its amazing success, but he ultimately gives players the credit for how far the team has come. When asked how his coaching style impacts the team, Rohn responded, “I’m not sure what impact my coaching style has on the success or failure of our team. But I do think I have a knack for finding talented players that for some reason other coaches don’t always notice. And I think I do a good job at picking out good people and students for our team, who then really like each other, which aids to our team unity. After that, I just try to push them to be their best, and set high goals for them to reach. But really, it comes down to the players we have and how they work so well together.”

With 10 Centennial Conference Championship titles and being the first team to win three championships in a row, coaching must have an impact on the players, and they credit him with just that. Rachel Plotke ‘18 praises Coach Rohn, saying “It’s no question that Coach Rohn is successful considering he has eight championships under his belt. A lot of our success has to do with his coaching ability and style. Depending on the team’s dynamic that year, he tailors his coaching style to that particular group of players in order to get the most out of each individual and as a team to be the best that we can be.”

The lone senior on this year’s team, Maggie Zerbe, has ended her collegiate basketball career on a extreme high. 

“Our team’s success is definitely predicated on our team chemistry. Coach Rohn does an excellent job recruiting girls that not only work together in games but genuinely like each other off of the court.” 

“To finish my career with three championships is definitely something special. I will be the first women’s basketball player in the history of our conference to graduate with that accomplishment which is pretty incredible. After my freshmen season, I couldn’t have predicted that kind of success,” said Zerbe. 

Like Plotke and fellow teammate Brandi Vallely ’18, she attributes the programs’s success to team chemistry.

“Our team’s success is definitely predicated on our team chemistry. Coach Rohn does an excellent job recruiting girls that not only work together in games but genuinely like each other off of the court.”

Vallely agrees, saying, “I think Coach’s run-and-gun style is what makes us a successful team. We rarely like to slow down the game and I think that’s how we have an edge against competitors.”

It seems all are in agreement in declaring team chemistry as one of the most important aspects of the team.

“Off the court they are best friends and share everything together. And this shows up on the court in how they pull for each other, play for each other, share the ball, back each other up on defense,” said Rohn.

Vallely concurs, as she states, “The most important aspect of our team’s success is chemistry. We are all really good friends and we know what to expect from one another.”

This team’s chemistry has provided them with an edge, allowing them to have such an impressive last decade and last three years in the conference.

“The three-peat was a goal we set before the season ever started, and we had to overcome injuries and setbacks, but this team battled through it, had to fight each step of the way. I’m very proud of them for that. It’s hard to even win one championship. For this team to do what it’s done over a long period of time is hard [to] explain. Mostly I’m happy for the players and it makes me very happy to think that I helped them achieve some- thing special. When you see the looks on their faces, that’s the greatest reward you can ask for,” said Rohn.

As the team looks to next season and beyond, their confidence in achieving greatness does not waiver. There will be five seniors on the team next season, and all five players bring immense talent and leadership to the team. “I think the rising senior class is going to have a great and important impact for the team next season. Considering the past two seasons, we’ve had lone senior captains, we as a class have had to step into that informal leadership role since our sophomore year. That being said, we know what it takes to be leaders and to lead our team to another successful season,” said Plotke. The team is coming off great momentum from the previous and past seasons and is expected to achieve great things.

“We are all pumped to keep up with workouts and aim to be successful again. We are all working together really well and I am excited to see how far we can make it next year,” added Vallely.

Coach Rohn also has all the confidence in his team, and continues to set greater goals for them to work towards.

“Well, now we want to win a fourth in a row! To complete the ‘Grand Slam.’ Our players are already thinking about that and other goals, like advancing further in the NCAA Tournament, trying to make the Final Four. Most competitors are that way, spending more time planning for what’s next than in celebrating what they have already done. The ultimate goal is making the Final Four and winning a National Championship. If we never get there, that will be o.k. But we’re never going to stop trying or stop dreaming big dreams,” said Rohn.

Vallely is also looking to win another championship and more, saying, “I hope we can accomplish big things next year. Our goal is to win the conference and hopefully make it further in the NCAA’s, but to do that we all have to focus and play our game. The conference will be very competitive next year so we have to work extremely hard to have success next season.”

The Lady Mules hoist their third straight Centennial Conference Championship trophy

The freshmen players did not see much playing time this year, but they will soon become the leaders of the team. Emily O’Mahoney ‘20 is excited to be moving up the ladder and hopes “to lead the team to future success by following in the footsteps of the girls older than us who are great role models: learning from them on and off the court. As freshmen, our biggest contribution was bringing high energy to practice and on the bench. It is important to a team to have their younger players bring high intensity. I hope for our team to keep up the success and hard work and for new players to want to win and become the new energy for our team.”

Fellow teammates are not worried to hand off their hard work to the underclassmen. “I have no doubts that the underclassmen will successfully fit the role as upperclassmen and as leaders for our team in the years ahead. Our team has a winning mentality and that’s demonstrated collectively as a team whether you’re a freshman or whether you’re a senior. They definitely have what it takes,” said Plotke.

And Zerbe has high hopes for the future of her teammates, “I hope that the team can get a fourth title next season. It would be unprecedented to win four in a row and I would love to see the class below me have that incredible achievement.”

With such strong team chemistry, trust and confidence, there is no way this team isn’t going to dominate the Centennial Conference in the future. The women’s basketball program has an incredibly successful past and present, and the future is setting out to be just as good, or even better

Photos courtesy of Kaitlin Errickson and Muhlenberg Athletics


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