Mark Ehlen was named Mid-American Conference women's basketball coach of the year yesterday for the third time in six seasons.
Forward Kahli Carter, the lone senior on the University of Toledo women's team, was named first-team All-MAC, and she finished third in the player-of-the-year voting conducted by the coaches and the MAC News Media Association.
Bowling Green State University junior guard Francine Miller was a second-team All-MAC pick, Toledo junior center Melantha Herron was an honorable-mention choice, and UT point guard Mary Blessing was named to the all-freshmen team.
“I'm honored to be coach of the year, but the award is a reflection of the team's performance, the players' performance and the coaching staff's performance this year,” said Ehlen, who became the first women's coach in MAC history to be named coach of the year three times.
Ehlen and the Rockets won't have much time to celebrate.
Top-seeded Toledo (22-5, 15-1) will play this afternoon at 2 against longtime rival and No. 9 seed Bowling Green (11-17, 6-10) in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament in Cleveland.
Bowling Green was the only team to defeat the Rockets in MAC play, pulling off a stunning, 63-58 win at Anderson Arena on Jan. 13.
Since then the Rockets have won 13 straight games with Blessing running the offense.
“One of the things that separates us from some of the teams in our conference is that we're a pretty deep team,” Ehlen said. “I probably have had teams with more talent and more firepower, but this team has a lot of character and they really value the importance of team play, offensively and defensively.
“Our bench has won a lot of games for us. We're not a team of superstars. In past years we were kind of the Kim Knuth show. Before that it was Mimi Olson, Angela Drake and Dana Drew.
“I guess if we had one so-called standout it would be Kahli. But this team has won because it's just a good all-around team.”
Ehlen was an easy choice for coach-of-the-year honors after his team rebounded from its first losing season in 12 years (14-15 last year) to claim the West Division title and the outright MAC regular-season championship.
Ehlen also was MAC coach of the year in 1997 and '99.
The Rockets, seeking their record seventh MAC Tournament championship, have played in seven straight title games. They also have battled No. 2 seed Kent State (19-7, 14-2) for the championship each of the past five years, winning three.
“My first few years in the league, it was pretty much a given that Kent State and Toledo were going to meet in the finals,” Ehlen said. “I don't think it's a given right now by any stretch.”
Carter was an honorable-mention All-MAC pick last year. She leads the league in rebounding (9.0), is fourth in scoring (17.2) and free-throw percentage (84.4 percent), and sixth in field-goal percentage (52.3).
Carter finished behind Ball State sophomore Tamara Bowie and Kent State's Julie Studer in the player-of-the-year race. Bowie leads the MAC in scoring (18.6).
Miller, an All-MAC first-team pick last year and a member of the all-freshmen team in 1998-99, missed six games this season and parts of several others because of injuries. She is averaging 14.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals for the Falcons.