A rejuvenating season for head coach Krista Van Hauen and the St. Ambrose women's basketball team led to several individual awards as the Midwest Collegiate Conference announced its post-season basketball awards February 27.
The Queen Bees had a total of four selections to the MCC all-conference team, highlighted by first teamers Samantha Saladino and Lauren Cash, who gave SAU at least two players on the all-conference first team for a sixth straight year. Katie Jensen and Ashley Dexter received all-MCC honorable mention.
The four helped lead the Queen Bees to a 24-7 record and a spot in the championship game of the MCC Tournament. The Bees, who climbed as high as No. 19 in the national rankings and experienced a 10-game winning streak midway through the season, have hopes for at at-large bid to the NAIA Division II National Tournament, which begins Mar. 6 in Sioux City, Iowa. The field gets announced tonight at 7 p.m. on www.naia.org
Much of the team's success can be traced back to the post play of Saladino, a senior forward from Davenport, Iowa, who has been named to the all-MCC first team in back-to-back years.
After missing the early part of the year with an injury, Saladino is averaging 13.9 points on 51.5 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds over 27 games. She is one of just two players to be in the top six in the conference in both scoring (sixth) and rebounding (third), along with Grand View's Morgan Hamner. Saladino also leads the team with 23 blocked shots.
Saladino had her best performance of the year in a win over Grinnell College, when she scored 34 points on 13-of-20 shooting, back on Dec. 15. She also had a 30-point, nine-rebound performance at AIB, and totaled five double-doubles.
Cash, a junior guard from Pekin, Ill., leads SAU in scoring at 15.5 points per games. She has started all 31 games for the Queen Bees and has used her deadly accuracy from behind the 3-point line to help propel SAU to a +13.0 scoring margin. Cash has gone 69-of-75 from beyond the arc, an impressive 39.4 percent, and is averaging 2.2 made 3-point baskets per game.
Cash has scored in double figures 28 times and has hit at least one 3-pointer in every game but the season opener this year.
Lauren's sister Megan was named all-MCC first team following the 2010-11 season for St. Ambrose.
Jensen, a sophomore forward from Lena, Ill., garnered all-MCC honorable mention and leads the team in rebounding at 7.9 boards per game and is third in scoring at 11.2 points per contest. Her stellar play in the post has helped her accumulate eight double-doubles this season.
Jensen really stepped up her play in conference action by averaging 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in the 12 MCC games.
Dexter, a junior guard from Eldridge, Iowa, also received all-conference honorable mention. She was the driving force behind the Queen Bee offensive strategy and was an opposing force on the front line of the stout SAU defense. Dexter leads the Bees with 3.9 assists and 2.7 steals per game and has a better than 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. She also chips in with 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Now the Queen Bees are forced to wait to see if their season will continue at the National Tournament. St. Ambrose is looking for its 17th trip to the NAIA Championships, the last time coming in 2010-11, when the Bees advanced to the Sweet 16.