Ashley Joens bids emotional farewell after senior night win


Marijke Mendeszoon

Ashley Joens examining the court to see if she can pass to an open teammate against Texas tech on March 4, 2023.

Christian Royston, Sports Editor

AMES — As Ashley Joens sat down in the postgame press conference, it was clear in her eyes what the night meant to her. 

Five years and a long list of accolades later, Joens’ last game in Hilton Coliseum had finally come. The 76-52 win over Texas Tech was a good send off, but what meant more to her was seeing how big of an impact she was at Iowa State.

There was no avoiding the emotions that were bound to come with the seniors’ final game at Hilton.

“It just goes to show how much this program means to her,” Emily Ryan said. “And she means just as much to this program… she’s left such a legacy as a Cyclone.”

As Joens let everything sink in, the tears started to fall. She got the opportunity to play an extra year at Iowa State and made the most of her final chance. When it’s all said and done, Joens will go down as one of the best to ever wear a Cyclones jersey.

Joens choked through her answer for what was going through her head in her final moments in Hilton. As hard as it was to put into words, she tried her best to express what her time as a Cyclone meant to her.

“I got the opportunity to come back for another year and play with this team,” Joens said. “It means so much and it’s sad to think it’s over.”

Joens tends to be a stoic person, especially when talking with the media. She knows what job she has to do and she does it.

Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly knows Joens is not a robot, but he felt confident that with her focus on the postseason, the emotions would come at a different time.

“The emotion of it I don’t think is gonna hit her for a while,” Fennelly said. 

That’s why it came as such a surprise to Fennelly when he found out the emotions Joens just showed. He was thinking about saying he wasn’t surprised, but he honestly was.

“I shouldn’t say that, but yeah I am surprised. It’s just not who she is,” Fennelly said. “I’m glad she did. She should.”

After all Joens has done as a Cyclone, she deserves to let out a good cry. Five years of her life were devoted to being a Cyclone, and now it’s over.

However, the impact of the night didn’t stop Joens from going out and giving the Hilton crowd one last show.

It was clear early on that the seniors knew what it meant to be playing their last game in Hilton Coliseum and they wanted to put on a show. The effort that every senior showed in the outing and the intensity of their game didn’t go unnoticed.

As the first quarter was nearing its end, the Cyclones were still trailing by one point. Joens had scored the last five points, and she wanted more.

Joens caught a pass under the basket and tried to put up a shot through two defenders. The shot wouldn’t go. Joens muscled her way to grab her own rebound before putting up another shot.

Again, her shot wouldn’t go. Joens wasn’t going to give up there. Bouncing between defenders, she rebounded her own shot again and forced the ball into the net. Iowa State had its first lead of the night since the opening possession. 

“Ashley Joens just gets the living crap beat out of her every single night, and the decision’s been made that’s OK,” Fennelly said. “And she doesn’t flinch. She just keeps playing.”

That lead would only get bigger from there. By the end of the half, Joens was up to 12 points and four rebounds, as the Cyclones had a comfortable 19-point lead.

The Cyclones lost no momentum in the locker room, as they came out in the second half on fire. After another three-pointer from Denae Fritz, Joens went back to work.

Joens found herself one-on-one with a Texas Tech defender and took advantage of it. She put up a shot while getting fouled to complete a three-point play.

Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw got her shot to get on the board late in the third quarter as she got a wide-open look from beyond the arc. She knocked down the three to get on the board, joining the other seniors who hit the court on senior night.

When the Cyclones thought senior night couldn’t have gone any better, Joens made sure to do what she does best. Score.

An over 30-point deficit seems like a mountain too large to overcome, and that was the case as Joens hit a three early in the final quarter to put Texas Tech’s hopes to rest.

Joens ended the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Morgan Kane ended the game with eight points and four rebounds.

Kane, Joens and Espenmiller-McGraw all impacted the senior night game in different ways, as they had done throughout their entire Cyclone career. Every point, every big moment on the court against Texas Tech was welcomed with the loudest cheers of the night.

With three minutes left in the game, it was time for the seniors to hit the bench. Their job was done.

“It’s just been a long ride,” Joens said. “Things aren’t always easy and we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together. It seems like it’s the end to a lot. I feel like this has been home for so long.”

As each player subbed out one-by-one they were showered in applause and cheers from a Hilton crowd on its feet. The appreciation for their time as a Cyclone was felt as they trotted to the bench with smiles on their faces and tears of joy in their eyes.

Greeted by hugs on the sideline it all sank in. That was the last game they would play at Hilton Coliseum. 

Now the only thing left ahead for the seniors is the postseason.

“This wasn’t the last ride,” Ryan said. “We still have a lot to play for.”