All-American Gained Leadership Experience Through Basketball, Academics


Two-time All-American forward Lilly Edwards will graduate with a track record of incredible individual and team success. The women’s basketball team has maintained an 81-20 record in her four years on the team, and she has received a variety of All-Ohio Athletic Conference and academic accolades. 

However, she considers the leadership experience that she has earned to be the most valuable aspect of her time on the team. 

“I think I’m a much more well-rounded individual as a woman and a leader,” Edwards said. “I’ve figured out how to connect with people that I have common goals with and form trusting and respectful friendships with them.” 

She credits head coach Cheri Harrer with providing an example of a strong female leader in a male-dominated field. Even though Edwards has been playing basketball since kindergarten, she only had one female coach before coming to BW. 

“Seeing the respect that [Harrer] has earned over time, and her going out of her way to make sure that we’re demanding the same respect for ourselves as women, means a lot to me and is probably going to be my biggest takeaway once I leave here,” Edwards said. 

Edwards’ leadership abilities were put to the test this season more than ever. The tentative and sometimes awkward transition from COVID-19 restrictions caused many student-athletes to lose patience with NCAA rules this season. As a senior, it was Edwards’ job to set an example and enforce these rules among her teammates, which she did not enjoy. 

“There were hard conversations I had to have with some of my teammates,” Edwards said. “It’s difficult sometimes to be the bad guy. I don’t like doing that, so this was the hardest season for me in that regard.” 

Fortunately, these struggles early in the season made this spring’s success even more meaningful. The Yellow Jackets became OAC Tournament champions with a road victory against John Carroll. After clinching an NCAA Division III Tournament berth, the Jackets defeated Salisbury (Md.) and #25 Gettysburg (Pa.) before falling to Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the Sweet 16. 

For Edwards, the most enjoyable part of the NCAA Tournament was watching her younger teammates experience it for the first time. This was Edwards’ third time in the tournament, so she was able to take a step back and enjoy the experience without being concerned about meeting expectations. 

“We were really just focused on having a good time and playing the best that we could,” Edwards said. “After we won the OAC Championship, I was very content at that point, and I think everybody in our program was just like, ‘We’re gonna ride this out as long as we can.’” 

Edwards has been able to balance academics and athletics throughout her collegiate career – she earned Academic All-OAC honors the past three years and Academic All-District the past two. She credits a rigorous high school schedule with preparing her to be a successful collegiate student-athlete. 

“I’ve always been the kind of person that school doesn’t come easily, so I have to put in all the extra time and effort,” Edwards said. “I would do five or six hours of homework every single night in high school, so by the time I got to college, I had already developed pretty decent habits.” 

Although extracurricular activities and maintaining new friendships occasionally made it difficult to balance her time, her busy schedule in high school – and not having six straight hours of class every day –  made life easier in college. Her academic advisor and professor Amy Jo Sutterluety was also influential in helping her manage her workload and grow as a person. 

“She really took the time to get to know me on a personal level and gave me all of the advice I needed to help me achieve my goals,” Edwards said. “I definitely wouldn’t be going in the direction that I’m going in if she wasn’t there to guide me along the way.” 

An Exercise Science major, Edwards plans to blend her work ethic and people skills with a career in nursing, a path she has been working towards for several years. She was recently accepted into the master of nursing program at Case Western Reserve University. 

In a span of 20 months, Edwards will receive the equivalent of a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing. Given how hard she has worked on and off the court, she has set herself up to take on life’s next big challenge.