Madison Ashby has been part of successful basketball teams her entire life. She helped lead Scranton Prep to a district championship and appeared twice in the state quarterfinals. However, what her and her teammates are doing at The University of Scranton this season is on another level.
Ashby, a 2015 Scranton Prep graduate and Jenkins Township native, is a freshman on the Lady Royals basketball team, which is ranked fourth in the USA Today Coaches Poll in the NCAA Division 3 with a 22-0 record — 12-0 in the Landmark Conference. While at Scranton Prep, Ashby was a part of teams that were very good, but this is something completely different.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” she said of being unbeaten this far into a season. “It’s been a great experience. I knew my playing time was going to be limited. It’s still an honor to be part of the team and experience the victories and the friendships.”
The Lady Royals are coached by former Misericordia University men’s basketball coach Trevor Woodruff. Woodruff said Ashby plays a key role to Scranton’s chemistry.
“She understands her role as a freshman joining a talented team where playing time is rare,” he said. “She can have a positive effect in other ways. She’s showing a lot of maturity as opposed to taking energy away from the team.”
Ashby has grown up in an athletic family. She is the daughter of Jenkins Township residents Tracy and Andy Ashby. Her father played 14 seasons of Major League Baseball. She has three sisters including Eastin, a guard on the Emerson College women’s basketball team, and Taryn, a junior on Pittston Area’s girls basketball team. Her youngest sister, Ashton, is also an athlete at Pittston Area.
Certainly, the Ashby family has an athletic mindset. Growing up in a family like that, Madison said, helped her get to where she currently is. The four siblings are very competitive.
“It was always competitive, all the way through,” Ashby said. “It was never taken lightly with any sports we did. Dad always taught us that hard work pays off. They’ve gotten me this far.”
In the past, the Ashby sisters have competed against each other on the court. In 2014, Scranton Prep beat Pittston Area, 62-25, in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 2 semifinals. In that game, three of the Ashby sisters — Madison, Taryn and Eastin — scored two points. In that year, Prep reached the state quarterfinals.
“I loved playing against my sisters,” Ashby said. “We were always waiting to see if that would ever work out in the brackets.”
She remembers picking on her sisters following that game.
“‘Ah, good game,’ I would say,” Ashby laughed. “It was always fun, but we weren’t taking anything lightly on the court.”
This is Woodruff’s first season with the team, but it isn’t his first time being nationally-ranked. Woodruff was the head coach of the Lackawanna College men’s basketball team when the Falcons were ranked ninth in the nation.
The Lady Royals themselves are also familiar with success. Scranton won the NCAA Division III national title in 1985, has reached the Final Four eight times and has made 28 NCAA Tournament appearances. Last season, the Lady Royals finished 24-4, including 15-1 during the Landmark Conference regular season, and earned an NCAA Tournament bid for the third straight season.
“We have a pretty focused mindset,” Woodruff said. “We’re playing one game at a time and we’re not looking at this as 21-0 — more like 1-0, 21 times. We’re not trying to let it get bigger than it needs to be.”
Being in a family of four sisters, Ashby knows her parents can’t make every game. They get to as many as they can, she said. She is studying Electrical Engineering at Scranton.
Most recently, the Lady Royals beat Susquehanna University, 66-44. The team will be back in action on Saturday, Feb. 13, hosting Goucher College.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick