The Loyola women’s basketball team (3-15, 1-6) is young compared to the other teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. The team only has two true seniors, including guard Katie Salmon who joined the team in 2014.
Salmon is the fifth highest scorer for the Ramblers this year, averaging 5.5 ppg. She is being outscored by graduate transfer Jessica Cerda and first-years Abby O’Connor, Kailyn Strawbridge and Ellie Rice.
Even though four players are scoring more than Salmon, she has the second highest field goal percentage on the team. Salmon is shooting 43.6 percent, only behind first-year Alexis Meyer. However, Salmon has taken 71 more shots and plays more than eight more mpg than Meyer.
Salmon has been playing basketball for 13 years. She played throughout high school at Wauwatosa East High School in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and decided to play for Loyola because she wanted to stay close to home. She said she’s grown a lot since she arrived at Loyola four years ago.
Salmon isn’t the only person who has recognized a change throughout her time on the team. Head coach Kate Achter noticed Salmon’s started having more fun with the team over the years.
“[Salmon] is a really mature kid so to say that she has grown up in my two years here isn’t a fair assessment,” Achter said. “I think more than anything [Salmon] has been able to let her hair down and have a little fun with the group.”
Salmon said she feels like she’s matured a lot. She said she’s flourished in ways she didn’t expect, which opened her eyes to many different things.
“Being able to learn how to take criticism and what to do with it not only hearing [the criticism] but hearing it and trying to work from it,” Salmon said. “Even taking so much stuff from the court and applying it outside of basketball.”
Salmon said she wants to use the things she’s learned from the team in her future. After she graduates in May, she’s heading to Colorado Springs to teach math for Teach for America.
“I’ve learned different ways to learn about people and I think more than anything it’s been a really eye-opening experience to learn about other people,” Salmon said. “You can learn so much about other people. Other people are amazing and I think a lot of this has opened my eyes to be more open or ask more questions and learn more about people and get all the knowledge that I possibly can.”
Salmon’s growth as a player isn’t the only thing that’s different since her first year on the team. She’s also embraced a new role as a leader.
“I think my role as a leader has changed quite a bit,” Salmon said. “Freshman year is a challenge for anyone. Sophomore year I led a lot by example and always doing the right thing. I didn’t necessarily have a voice but I tried to work hard and do extra and be the best teammate that I could possibly be.”
Salmon said she was lucky she learned those values when she was a sophomore because she was able to apply them when she became an upper-class student.
“Junior year was a good test and that was when I really started gaining more of a voice and taking a lot of the lessons I had learned the previous years and then being about to vocalize those,” Salmon said.
Many of her teammates look up to her as a leader. Junior forward Citiana Negatu said she was grateful to have a positive person helping her on the team.
“We are a young team so having an upperclassmen who builds us up and takes initiative and brings us together and tells us what we need to be doing is helpful,” Negatu said.
Even the coaching staff noticed her leadership. Achter commented on her leadership with the first-years and her commitment to the team. Salmon has been through a major coaching change from her sophomore year into her junior year. She had to deal with the transition from one coaching style to another.
“[Salmon] has been around for a bit of a roller coaster of a career and she could’ve quit, she could have walked away and said ‘Hey, you’re a new coach, I don’t really care. I can’t take this anymore,’ especially after we didn’t win many games last year,” Achter said. “But [Salmon] has stuck it out and she’s really been a working example for our [first-years], a sounding board.”
Achter said the under-class students look up to Salmon. She said Salmon has been a great influence on the team and has strong friendships with all of the players.
“I know if she could do it over she would have had four years with this [first-years] group because she really enjoys them,” Achter said. “She’s been a great influence on our young kids, just how to handle your business academically, how to conduct yourself in public, and as a friend she’s been a great influence on them.”
During Salmon’s career at Loyola the team had a 25-83 record and has seen a coaching change. Even when it wasn’t always positive she said she learned to work hard and get through it. Last season she played in all 30 games and shot 41.2 percent. Salmon has been a key player on the court due to her rebounding; last season she averaged six rpg.
“A huge thing is perseverance and also sticking with things and definitely working hard with everything I do, I think that’s something that I’ve really learned to value,” Salmon said. “Seeing how long it takes for things to pay off is another. I didn’t see much of a pay off until my junior year so I think really a huge thing is sticking to things and always working hard and trying to stay positive.”
After winning just two games last season, Achter didn’t think Salmon was fully committed to the team’s rebuild. But Achter said Salmon has done a lot for the team to make her last year at Loyola memorable.
“As we … started the summer into this year, I wasn’t sure if [Salmon] was all in, and she would tell you the same thing, and I really challenged her to make it worthwhile as senior year and she’s done that,” Achter said. “She’s a kid who had to miss some practice because of classes and she’s just come back every day and as a senior sometimes you get called out more than the [first-years] because you know what’s going on. [Salmon’s] handled that really well.”
Salmon said she’s been grateful for everything the program has given her. She said the team has been able to teach her many things; she said she’s learned so much about communication because she’s had to deal with different coaching staffs and new teammates every year.
“Being able to communicate with a wide range of people has been something that I’ve learned for sure,” Salmon said. “Being able to understand which method of communication is going to work the best helps to really grow in some of your relationships with people.”
As Salmon’s career winds down, Achter said she hopes the younger players on the team realize what she has brought to the program and taught them. Achter said she wants the first-years to play hard for Salmon because it’s her last year on the team.
“[Salmon] is such a great representative of Loyola women’s basketball. I know she’s going to do big things in Teach for America and certainly in her career,” Achter said. “Not just the [first-years] but everybody, play hard for you seniors because its your last chance and I’d like her to see the pay off to see how hard she’s been working and know that it’s been worthwhile.”
Salmon and the Ramblers are scheduled to return to Gentile Arena to take on Indiana State University Jan. 26 and the University of Evansville Jan. 28.