Spotlight: Ellen Jaeschke
When you see the Air Force women's basketball team going wild over a blocked shot by one of its players, chances are that player is Ellen Jaeschke.
Jaeschke, a 6-2 sophomore from Cary, Ill., emerged early in her Falcon career as a legitimate shot blocking threat. As a freshman, Jaeschke finished the year ranked fourth in the Mountain West Conference in blocks per game, with just under one (0.96). In addition, her 26 total blocks were just one shy of the Academy's Division I single-season record, and ranked eighth overall on the single-season list.
Jaeschke's prowess as a shot-blocker has not waned in her sophomore campaign; if anything, it has grown. After the first 10 games of the season, Jaeschke already has 15 blocks to her name, three times as many as her second-closest teammates (Pamela Findlay and Alecia Steele have five blocks each). Now Jaeschke is tied for sixth on the career blocks list with 41. She still has quite a way to go to get to the top spot, currently held by Mary Manning with 122. But at the pace she's on, Jaeschke could certainly get there by the time she departs the Academy.
But what is it about Jaeschke that enables her to block as many shots as she does? Is it her long arms? Good timing? Just sheer luck?
Maybe a little of all of the above. But one thing is for certain. Jaeschke certainly loves the rush that blocking shots brings.
"It's something I've always liked to do," said Jaeschke. "It's probably my favorite thing. I like the feeling of rejecting someone. It always gets me pumped up and our team going."
Getting the team going is something that Jaeschke and her teammates have done well this season, and it shows. Entering today's contest versus Western State, the Falcons carry a mark of 8-2, marking the program's best ever win total as a Division I team.
That success, according to Jaeschke, is due in large part to the Falcons' play on defense. In particular, Air Force has been relentless on the boards. The Falcons, who have yet to be outrebounded by their opponent this season, currently hold a +11.3 rebounding margin.
In addition, Jaeschke, with 5.0 rebounds per game, is one of three Air Force players averaging at least five boards per game. So even when the shots aren't falling for Jaeschke, who averages 5.8 points per game, she still finds ways to contribute on the court. And with the Mountain West Conference schedule literally around the corner, there's no better time for Jaeschke to contribute for the Falcons, who have set lofty goals for themselves this year.
"Our expectations are to compete with everyone," said Jaeschke. "We want to show everyone that we're not the same team as last year. We want to prove everyone wrong."
After voters picked Air Force to finish ninth in the conference in a pre-season poll, many are probably stunned to see the Falcons sitting where they are now. But as Jaeschke mentioned herself, this isn't last year's Air Force team, despite the fact that the bulk of this rotation was also the bulk of last year's rotation.
So after Jaeschke and the Falcons are through with Western State today--hopefully with a 9-2 record--they will use that preseason poll as motivation. Motivation to prove to the Mountain West Conference that this is a different Air Force basketball team--a team they have never seen before.