Update (3/24/17): The Ashland University women's basketball team will play for the Division II national title tonight. Ashland (36-0) will take on Virginia Union in the championship game in Columbus.
Update (3/22/17): The Ashland University women's basketball moved to 35-0 and on to the Final Four with an 82-67 win over West Texas A&M Tuesday night.
The Ashland University women's team is 68-2 since last year. And they've been winning with a team that's made up entirely of players from Ohio.
“Coach Robin Fralick said that Ohio girls high school basketball is unbelievable," Pluto says.
A niche fan base
Pluto says women's team has been drawing between 1,000 to 1,500 fans per game.
"If you look at women’s basketball, even Division I -- away from the elite programs like the University of Connecticut -- they don’t draw that many fans a game."
And Pluto says the rural campus location works to the team's favor. “You don’t have compete with really anybody else. So they have their niche and it’s a small-town feel for their program."
Years of dominance and a big change
Pluto says Coach Fralick credits her predecessor, Sue Ramsey, for paving a path to success. Ramsey was Ashland's coach for 20 years and led the team to a 2013 national title. They were runners-up in 2012.
Fralick was Ramsey's assistant for seven years and moved up when Ramsey retired.
Fralick wanted the team to play faster, going from averaging 75 points a game to 100. "You have to train your team differently. You have to be physically fit to do this and have to be willing to play more players off the bench to keep them fresh."
The goal is to make the other team play at a pace that they're not used to. As a result, during the regular season, the team averaged 96 points per game.
Coach Fralick’s husband, Tim, is an assistant coach.
"This is not a high-budget program that’s busting the whole academic budget. This is a program that is being run wisely and frugally. And I think that’s how it should be at these smaller schools."
"I was trying to think of anything around here that would compare to it in college basketball in the Ohio area, I can’t come up with anything that’s been this dominant for this long."