Faces in KS: Abby Oliver

Abby Oliver is looking for a big year for Wabaunsee. (Tracy Capoun)
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Jan 1, 2019

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Jason Oliver formed a competitive softball team for the girls in the Alma-Wabaunsee area when his daughter, Abby, was around 10 years old. The squad also included Autumn Schreiner, Alyssa Lohmeyer and Alexis Hafenstine. The team stayed together until last year.

“He kind of saw that talent in us even at a very young age,” Abby said.

The quartet, later coined the “4As,” has formed the backbone for a brilliant run of success from the Alma-Wabaunsee girls’ programs in recent years.  

Oliver credited her family and the community for developing the athletes. Oliver labeled her parents “the best support system I could ever ask for.” Her role model is her mother, Kelly.

 “A lot of people in our community have that strong character,” the 5-foot-10 Oliver, a Washburn University basketball commit, said. “The coaches that we had, our basketball coaches, our volleyball coaches, they all really preach character, and just the morals of being a good person.”

Two seasons ago, A-W took second to Class 2A to Claflin-Central Plains in girls’ basketball.

The Chargers matched the 1986 season for the best finish in school annals, according to well-known Kansas historian Carol Swenson.

Last year, A-W went 18-4, won the Mid-East League title for the second consecutive winter and took an upset loss to Jefferson County North in sub-state.

In softball, the Chargers finished third in 2-1A state in 2017 and won the title this past spring. It was the second state softball title in school annals, first since 2007.

“Parents and our support system that we have throughout the community has really built some pretty amazing people, pretty young amazing athletes,” Oliver said.

As a sophomore, Schreiner collected 2-1A Sports in Kansas Softball Player of the Year honors with a .516 average and 8-2 record. Oliver, an outfielder, collected the state tournament Most Outstanding Player award with 10 RBI. She hit .452 for the spring.

Lohmeyer earned first team all-state catcher, and Hafenstine, also a sophomore, was first team all-state infield.

For this fall, the four friends made a deal.

“Kind of a funny story,” Oliver said.

Lohmeyer and Hafenstine heavily focus on volleyball and softball. Oliver hadn’t played volleyball since eighth grade. She ran cross country as a freshman and sophomore, and played tennis her junior season. Then, Lohmeyer and Hafenstine talked Oliver and Schreiner into playing volleyball this fall.

“My deal was that if I played volleyball, they would have to play basketball, too, so it was kind of like a pact thing,” Oliver said.

Wabaunsee finished 32-12 and enjoyed a surprising run to the Class 2A state championship game. Lohmeyer and Oliver were the key seniors. Lohmeyer paced the team with 262 kills and 99 blocks, while Oliver had 117 kills, 64 blocks and also played in all 94 sets.

Hafenstine delivered a team-high 5.4 digs per set and Schreiner was a reserve who appeared in 83 sets with 95 digs.

In the state semifinals, Wabaunsee faced undefeated Pittsburg-St. Marys’ Colgan. A-W was the more relaxed team from the start and earned a 27-25, 25-22 victory.

At the end of the semifinal match, Wabaunsee’s Madisyn Wertzberger, third on the Chargers in kills and second in blocks, suffered an ankle injury and was severely limited in the final. A-W had a lead in the first set but lost 27-25, 25-11 to Garden Plain.

“We talked about coming in as the sixth seed, and it’s tough to have a perfect season, and we knew Pittsburg was going to be nervous and tight, and worried, and we had no fear,” Wabaunsee coach Tracy Capoun said at state. “So we played like we had no fear, and I think even going into the championship, we had that.”

Lohmeyer and Hafenstine held up their end of the deal and joined the basketball team. Their presence has allowed Wabaunsee to play at a faster pace than last season.

“They are both just very natural athletes,” Oliver said. “They are both instinctive, and Alexis is very fast and really a great defensive player, so that I think that they will be a really big help.”

A-W graduated standout Karsyn Schultz, who averaged 18 points and eight rebounds and is currently playing for Emporia State.

Last winter, Oliver delivered 13 points and seven rebounds, and junior Madelyn Hutley delivered 11 points and three assists. Oliver and Hutley have started every game of their basketball careers. This season, Oliver has set a goal to clear 1,000 career points. She's also a member of Wheat State Elite over the summer, a travel team made up of some of the states top players. 

“The way that our basketball program has really developed through the past couple of years, not with just me, but like Carson Schultz and Madelyn Hutley, I think we really brought some good leaders to our basketball program, and the girls athletics overall at Wabaunsee,” Oliver said.

Three juniors, Schreiner, Megan Strait and Laurel Barber round out the starting five for sixth-year coach Shanna Perine. Schreiner is the team’s best defensive player.

“I think my team and I play a very fast paced, but ‘old-school’ kind of game,” Oliver said. “We really focus and cause havoc on defense, and are constantly running on fast breaks.”

Wabaunsee, ranked eighth in 2A in the Dec. 17 poll, has opened 4-1 with a loss to Frankfort, ranked third in 1A. Frankfort, with Missouri State signee Emilee Ebert, defeated A-W, 58-48, on Dec. 4. The Chargers have rolled in all four of its victories.

College-wise, Oliver had attended Washburn summer camps since she was little and has always enjoyed the way longtime Lady Blues coach Ron McHenry runs his program. Oliver enjoys reading and writing and writes for the school newspaper. She loves English and has a 3.98 GPA. She expects to get a medical degree.

“When I picture a college player or a college basketball player, the first thing that kind of really came to my mind was kind of a Washburn player,” she said.

McHenry, like the other three Division II schools, has had a long history of success with in-state players in key roles. Oliver, listed as a guard/forward, can squat 185 pounds and clean 135.

“Last year was the first summer I hadn’t spent almost every weekend at a softball diamond,” Oliver said. “I play centerfield, which I grew to absolutely love the outfield. I had a hard time choosing between softball or basketball to focus on, but ended up choosing basketball because I knew it would be the harder one for me to give up.”

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This feature is presented by Wheat State Elite. Wheat State Elite and founder Dylan Evans are proud to support basketball coverage in the state of Kansas with Sports in Kansas. Best of luck to our very own Abby Ogle this season! 

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Oliver Q&A

How did you get involved in basketball?

Basketball has always been my family favorite sport, and I loved watching KU basketball when I was little. I remember my parents getting a small goal for Christmas.

What are your goals this season?

Of course the typical goals of making it to state and performing well is always on our to-do list. Although I think one of our biggest goals this season is to be Mid-East League champs. Personally, my coach and I both set a goal for myself to reach 1000 pts.

Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?

This season, our team is full with athletic girls who can play great defense and outwork our opponents. I think we got a good sub-state for us to be in, in order to make it to state.

What makes you such a force as a player?

Taking away the skill part, I think I can be a pretty decent teammate. I’m always on my teammates to perform at their best and let them know when they are going a good job.

What’s the atmosphere like to play basketball for your school and town?

Basketball has always been the sort of “primary” sport at Wabaunsee. A lot of community members are invested in our programs and I think there’s a lot of pressure on players and coaches to perform well. Although they’ve always been the best support system. My favorite memory of high school basketball so far is my sophomore year turning to our crowd after the state championship, and seeing Bramlage packed full with our fans.

For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?

I think my team and I play a very fast paced, but “old-school” kind of game. We really focus and cause havoc on defense, and are constantly running on fast breaks.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?

I think my biggest strengths are my size for being a guard and my defense. My weakness would be my outside shooting.

Who are other key players on your team?

Madelyn Hutley and Autumn Schreiner are both huge key on our team. Hutley is a very skilled offensive player, and has a great shot. Schreiner is naturally very athletic and is our best defensive player.

Favorite thing about basketball?

Basketball is such a fast-paced game, and there’s always a lot of scoring going on. You go off of instinct most of the game too.

Do you play any other sports, tell us about that, what other positions do you play?

I could never really decide what sport to play in the fall. My freshman and sophomore year, I ran cross country. Junior year I decided to try out tennis, and it was a lot of fun trying out a completely new sport. And this year, all of my teammates and peers talked me into going out for volleyball (I hadn’t played since eighth grade). We got second at state, and I really enjoyed playing the sport.

I played competitive softball since I was ten, and last year was the first summer I hadn’t spent almost every weekend at a softball diamond. I play centerfield, which I grew to absolutely love the outfield. I had a hard time choosing between softball or basketball to focus on, but ended up choosing basketball because I knew it would be the harder one for me to give up.

What is it like to play for your coach?

As cheesy as it sounds, Coach Perine has always believed in my ability as a player and person, ever since my freshman year. Starting a freshman is a bold move, especially in a small community, but she saw potential in me playing so much time as a freshman. Although, she has never been afraid to tell me what I need to hear, and still make me work to get better day in and day out.

What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?

We do a lot work in the off season, with practices and games. We always play in one or two team camps, summer league camps, are in the weight room almost every week day, and we fit practice in once or twice a week.

Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?

I love to read and write. I do a lot writing for our school newspaper and have even competed in a couple of competitions for it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

If I go through with a dermatology degree or the medical degree I want, probably just getting out of school and going through residency.

Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?

English is by far my favorite subject. I think I’m a pretty good student, and get most of my work done on time. My GPA is a 3.98

Who is your role model?

I think my mom will always be my role model. She handles being an awesome mom, wife, employee, school board member AND student all at the same time, while still making it to all our sporting and school events.

Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?

Alma has an bakery in town, that make amazing cookies and cinnamon rolls.

One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?

My sense of smell is all out of whack. So sometimes I can smell things, sometimes I cannot smell anything, and other times mom will be making brownies and bacon and all I can smell is blueberries.

Anything else to add?

I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents. They are the best support system I could ever ask for.