Panther seniors reflect on time at Eastern following season-ending loss


Rob Le Cates

The EIU women’s basketball team’s, from left, guard Kira Arthofer, head coach Matt Bollant, guard Jordyn Hughes and Abby Wahl, answer questions at the press conference after the Panthers’ 72-61 loss to Tennessee State in OVC Tournament in Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana, on Wednesday. It was the last game for the three players, who are all seniors.

Autumn Schulz, Assistant Sports Editor

EVANSVILLE, IND. — The Eastern women’s basketball team’s 72-61 loss in the first round of the OVC Tournament to Tennessee State was the last time that its three seniors stepped on the court sporting a Panthers uniform. 

Seniors Kira Arthofer and Abby Wahl closed out their basketball careers with ten points each. Arthofer was 4-of-5 from the field with eight steals and five assists while Wahl added nine rebounds. Jordyn Hughes had seven points, six assists, and three steals to add to the contest.  

Head coach Matt Bollant said the group helped change the program with their work both on and off the court and that he is very proud of what they have accomplished these past four years.  

“They came in and Eastern was 346th RPI the season before they came in and yesterday in the net ranking, we were 191, that’s one hundred and fifty spots jumping,” Bollant said. “It may not seem like a big deal but that is, there are good programs in Division I and you know when we recruited them, we said help us change this program and obviously when we said change, we were envisioning being at the top but to go from last to fourth is a big jump. I am really proud of what they have done in the classroom they are pretty much straight a students, 3.8, and we raised thirteen thousand six hundred dollars for families in our community. These guys have been nearly perfect off the court and that culture has changed in our program and these three were a big part of that.”  

The veteran players will walk away from Eastern knowing that they are in the history books. Arthofer is on two of Eastern’s top-10 lists, her 225 career steals earned her the sixth place in program history while her 428 career assists put her in seventh place.  

Wahl became the 26th player to achieve the 1,000-point mark for her career back in December and then in February became the 10th player in program history to reach 1,200 points and 600 rebounds. Hughes was one of the program’s top shooters throughout her time as a Panther. She ended the regular season shooting 41.3 percent from the three-point range, the fourth best in the conference.  

Losing any player that adds stability in scoring is extremely hard, but it is especially hard when you lose three at one time. Bollant said that he is not too worried about it because the group he has coming in gives him confidence in the team going forward.  

“Obviously, we got some holes to fill, and these guys have meant a lot to us and done a lot, and I’m not going to worry about that today,” Bollant said. “Obviously, we got four kids coming in but today is about these guys and making sure that they are okay and ready to handle the adversity of not finishing well today.” 

Walking away from a program that they have spent four years of their life with is going to be hard for the three seniors. However, Wahl said that she could not have asked for a better place to spend these last four years of her life. 

“It’s meant everything. We all came in as freshmen and we’re all going out together, which is rare for a Division I basketball team,” Wahl said. “Just the friendships and the sisterhood that our team has is amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be with the girls that I had, and we made the most of it and no regrets, we played our hearts out. It’s been a good four years.” 

Hughes is thankful for the life lessons that have come out of these last four years. 

“The friendships we made, like Abby said, but also the resiliency. It’s hard, we had a lot of adversity over the four years. So, I am thankful that I learned those life lessons and I am stronger because of it.” 

Arthofer said that she feels that the group is leaving the program in a spot that puts the up incoming players in an excellent position to achieve great things.  

“I think that we are leaving this program in a spot that we didn’t come into, and I think that’s a big step and these girls coming for the next couple of years, they are good players,” Arthofer said. “They are going to do just great things and I can’t wait to watch them and see what they can do.” 


Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]