Dahling leads women’s basketball from bench

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Dahling leads women’s basketball from bench

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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Five of Marquette women’s basketball seniors have scored at least 1,000 career points: Allazia Blockton, Natisha Hiedeman, Erika Davenport, Danielle King and Amani Wilborn.

But on Marquette’s bench, there’s another senior whose impact is not quite as visible. Sandra Dahling plays only 4.4 minutes per game, but her leadership role is much bigger for the Golden Eagles.

“Sandra is a coach’s dream. She is a phenomenal leader by example, but also mostly by what she says and how authentic she is,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “She has done more for this program than anyone in terms of getting us to this point. Her stats and minutes might not reflect it, but if you’re on the inside of this program, … you know how valuable she is.”

The Stockholm, native said she realized her leadership ability back in high school when she was named the captain of her team Solna Branten. 

“I was a captain even (in) high school, but it wasn’t until I got here that I started working more on my leadership and just (to) try to get better,” Dahling said. “I’ve always been really scared of conflict, and here I’ve had to challenge that and talk to people and tell them, ‘Hey this is not okay.’ I’m still a work in progress.” 

While the coaches discuss strategy at the beginning of the timeout, Dahling addresses the team.

“Every game she’s in the huddle first, and she’s telling them what she sees and holding the team accountable to our goals and mindset of one play at a time,” Kieger said.

Kieger said Dahling’s individual goal before each game always pertains to leadership.

Being a leader doesn’t come without challenges. Dahling said she helps her team tackle adversity by reminding them why they’re playing.

“You just try to get back on them making sure they don’t forget our goals. Even when things are tough, I want them to remember what we want to do long-term,” Dahling said. “I just try to make them work harder and make sure they’re being good people … (and) to make sure we have that really high standard of how we carry ourselves on the court.” 

Dahling said the most difficult part of carrying the leadership role is being upfront with her teammates. 

“The hardest part can be when you have to tell someone what to do if they are acting out or something. They’re also your friend, and you don’t want to ruin your friendship,” Dahling said. “But the best part is feeling that what you’ve done has contributed to the success of the team.” 

Last April, Dahling received Marquette’s Blue and Gold Status Award. This honor recognizes student-athletes who make efforts to help the community. She has volunteered at the Wisconsin Humane Society where she walked, played and socialized with dogs once a week.

Along with Blockton, Dahling represents the women’s basketball team on the athletic department’s student-athlete advisory committee.

Dahling said some of her biggest influences growing up were her coaches and the Women’s National Basketball Association Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird. 

“I think (Bird) is really fun to watch, and she seems like a great leader both on and off the court,” Dahling said. 

Kieger said she talks to Dahling about is holding people accountable when things go wrong or when a player is struggling, and making sure she is aware of her external self and her surroundings.

“Everyone on this team and staff really respects her,” Kieger said. “When she tells you something, you listen.”

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