As a prep sophomore, Shelly Charvat was a bit player on the only state basketball championship team in Illinois Quad-Cities history.
A year behind the 2004-05 Rock Island Alleman squad that rolled to that Class A girls title, Mollie Yeargle eagerly watched it all go down.
"Watching them was awesome," said Yeargle, a Pioneers freshman that year. "It was so emotional, and I wished I could be part of that team. But now, having my chance to go to nationals and being with a great group of girls, I wouldn't want to be with another team. It's so exciting."
Indeed, Charvat, a redshirt St. Ambrose Queen Bees junior, and Yeargle, a junior guard and Black Hawk College transfer, will have a chance to play significant roles on a championship squad of their own when the 10th-ranked Bees battle for an NAIA Division II title starting Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. against Mount Vernon Nazarne in Sioux City, Iowa.
"It's a familiar feeling, and it's a good feeling because I am more a part of it now," said Charvat, a 6-foot reserve forward who has seen her playing time increase significantly in the past month. "I feel like I can be more of an asset."
Charvat certainly was that in helping coach Krista Van Hauen's team to a 79-72 Midwest Collegiate Conference championship win over William Penn last week. Her career-high 17 points were part of a three-game tourney run in which she averaged nearly double her 6.0 points per game season output.
"Shelly had a great February," Van Hauen said. "She's getting better everyday in practice. I think she is starting to have confidence, and that's what we need going into this week."
Although she was a junior-college second-team all-American at Black Hawk last year, Yeargle came to the Queen Bees without expectations of filling a starting backcourt role vacated by SAU standout Jenny Clark's graduation.
"I just wanted to play," she said. "I wanted to be on a team, continue playing ball. I didn't even think about starting."
She heads to the nationals as the Bees' third-leading scorer at 7.5 points per game, and, more importantly, as Van Hauen's designated defensive stopper.
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"To begin with, we thought she was going to be more of a shooter," the first-year coach said. "She was second in the country shooting free throws last year. She has kind of progressed into that defensive role. She takes pride in her defense."
Jay Hatch, who coached Yeargle and Charvat at Alleman, said the former Pioneers share a formidable work ethic.
"Mollie loves to work on her game, loves to shoot, loves to play," he said. "Shelly's the same way. In terms of wanting to be good and working at it, they are similar in that regard."
Van Hauen said the Pioneer connection helps enhance a strength of this Queen Bees team -its chemistry.
"They were friends in high school," she said, "and it carries in to the floor at college."