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EASTERN ILLINOIS BASKETBALL

Abby Wahl's confidence under the basket powers Eastern Illinois women's basketball

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Eastern Illinois' Abby Wahl (41) defends against a Morehead State opponent at Lantz arena on Thursday. 

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CHARLESTON — As a freshman on the Eastern Illinois women’s basketball team, Abby Wahl was afraid to shoot.

As a junior, Wahl leads the team in points and rebounds per game. She typically draws the toughest defensive assignments against the Ohio Valley Conference’s best players, and she is fine with that. 

“The biggest aspect that has changed for me is my confidence. My freshman year, I came in and was scared to do anything,” Wahl said. “I think my confidence has grown enough that it is a lot easier for me to be aggressive and take the shots that I can take. I can be more aggressive on the boards and also open up with my team and get closer with them.”

While the Panthers have multidimensional scoring weapons in senior Karle Pace (15.0 points per game), Lariah Washington (14.3) and Wahl (15.0), it falls to the 6-1 Wahl to be dominant on the glass. She has responded, averaging 8.5 rebounds a game, including a 21-rebound performance to open the season against the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Eastern Illinois' Abby Wahl (41) celebrates with teammate Karle Pace (11) against Morehead State at Lantz Arena last Thursday. 

Wahl isn’t afraid to get into a scrape or end up on the floor to keep the ball.

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“I grew up with two older brothers so I'm used to it. I like playing physically and I enjoy it. It makes it a lot more fun and makes a lot more competitive,” Wahl said. “Some games more than others, I feel that I get beat up, but that's all right. I try embrace the physicality. 

“It is challenging at times with the soreness, and sometimes I'm on the ground quite a bit. I'm trying to work on staying on my feet more. But it's fun, it's physical and very competitive. Our team embraces that well.”

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Eastern Illinois' Abby Wahl (41) grabs a rebound against Morehead State at Lantz Arena last Thursday.

The Panthers (6-7, 4-4 OVC) are riding high on a three-game winning streak currently. Washington led the scoring against Morehead State on Thursday and Pace scored a career-high 32 points against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.

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“It is great to get a streak going and it is really helping our confidence going into next week's games,” Wahl said. “I feel like all our best games are when all of us are pretty even scoring. Different people step up on different nights and everyone shares the ball super well.”

During EIU’s first meeting with Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 30, Wahl had to sit out due to a precautionary COVID-19 quarantine. 

"It was very challenging. Right when I got back from break, I found out I had to quarantine and that was hard," Wahl said. "I didn't want to let my team down and was stuck in my apartment for a week, not being able to shoot. I did what I could working out but it is not the same as practice. It was definitely hard but luckily I just missed one game and we made it work. It was upsetting it first but stuff happens and we work through it."

It was one of many challenges this season has brought to the Panthers, but getting the chance to play this season has been worth it for them. 

"The fans not being (at Lantz Arena) is a lot different. My parents came to almost every single game and so that has been an adjustment," Wahl said. "We have to expect the unexpected but I think honestly it hasn't affected our team too much, taking the precautions.

"We all want to play and we all want to be out there. We see other teams whose seasons have been canceled and other games have been postponed. We are truly enjoying every game that we get and every moment we get on the court. We are super thankful for it."

Wahl hails from Santa Claus, Ind., making trips to games around the conference very accessible for her family. 

"We are kind of in the middle of the Ohio Valley Conference, so games are just two hours away and it is very convenient for them. My brothers watch every game on ESPN+. They are definitely hoping to come and see me play again," Wahl said. "I'm happy with how my season has been going. I'm really focused on the team winning and whatever I need to do to make that happen. 

"We get along so well and we never have arguments. We can tell each other how it is and we are super supportive and there for each other. It is super exciting that our chemistry is so strong and I think that definitely translates on the court. Win or lose, we have each other's backs."


Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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