In a 14-team conference which includes three of the nation’s top-20 teams, St. Ambrose freshman Madi Epperson stood out.
The 5-foot-6 guard from Athens, Illinois, was named Saturday as the freshman of the year in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, the first time in the history of the St. Ambrose program that a Queen Bees player has won that honor from a conference.
“It really isn’t something I was thinking about. There are so many great players in our conference and for me, this is something that couldn’t happen without my teammates,’’ Epperson said. “They put a lot of trust in me and gave me the confidence to compete at this level.’’
Epperson averaged 11 points, three rebounds and a team-leading 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game during her freshman season, leading the team with 54 3-point baskets and ranking in the top 15 in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and 3-point baskets per game.
St. Ambrose overcame a 4-12 start to finish 8-7 during the second half of the season.
During that final stretch, Epperson’s averages grew to 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
Coach Krista Van Hauen saw that growth as Epperson settled into her point guard role helped position St. Ambrose for its first CCAC postseason tourney berth in three seasons.
“During the second half of the season, she really seemed to get comfortable in her role and her play at the point helped us do a lot of good things late in the year,’’ Van Hauen said.
“Coming in, I felt like she was going to develop into a good point guard for us. What I didn’t necessarily expect and what I was happy to see was how good of a scoring point guard she is and can be for us.’’
Epperson welcomed the challenge of competing at the college level.
“I learned a lot about myself as a player this year. The competition from one game to the next was good and the experiences I had, learning how to play at this level and what it takes to win, that will only help me moving forward,’’ Epperson said.
“Getting to the conference tournament this year was big for us. It was a good experience that we can build on next season and it’s good motivation as we work on our games in the offseason, to strive not just get back there but to work hard so we can get a better seed.’’
Epperson was one of two St. Ambrose players to receive postseason recognition in the CCAC.
Reeann McCarty, a senior guard from Manchester, Iowa, was awarded honorable mention all-conference honors.
McCarty led the Queen Bees for the second straight season with averages of 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. In a season which saw her become the program’s 32nd 1,000-point scorer, she also led St. Ambrose in blocks and steals and was second on the team in assists.
Additionally, the St. Ambrose team was awarded the CCAC Champions of Character Award for its on-floor demeanor and its off-court character-based activities.