Deandra Schirmer

Holton native Schirmer guides Division II team to "Elite Eight"

While college basketball fans in northeast Kansas were getting ready to watch the “March Madness” games of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, Holton native Deandra Schirmer was preparing one of the top women’s basketball teams in NCAA’s Division II for its first visit to the “Elite Eight” in nearly four decades.

On Monday, March 21, the Valdosta State University Lady Blazers of Valdosta, Ga., who hadn’t made the “Elite Eight” since 1984, fell 58-55 to the Vikings of Western Washington University in a game that was determined in the final seconds.

And while the loss was a tough one for the Blazers and for Schirmer — a 2007 Holton High School graduate, now completing her third year as the Blazers’ head coach with an overall record of 62-21 at VSU — it left them hungry for the 2022-23 season.

“If we could tip it up and start the season and do it all again and start competing for a national championship now, we would do it,” Schirmer said. “We’re right there. We have a few tweaks and adjustments we need to make, but we’re knocking on the door of that national championship. We’re even hungrier than ever, because we caught a whiff of it.”

A national Division II championship, as Schirmer noted when she was hired as the Blazers’ head coach, has been her goal for several years and remains her focus at Valdosta going into the future. But it would also be the culmination of her formative basketball years at Holton High School, playing under the direction of Jon Holliday and Brian Hickman.

“I learned from the best,” she said of her HHS coaches.

Schirmer, the daughter of Susan and the late Charles Schirmer of Holton, was a team captain and an all-state performer in basketball and volleyball at HHS, also lettering in cross country and softball before moving on to Cloud County Community College, where she earned all-conference and all-region honors and was named to the Jayhawk Conference Western Division second team as a sophomore.

She found her way to the University of South Carolina-Aiken, where she continued to play basketball until 2011, then graduated a year later, even though coaching as a full-time career wasn’t a high priority for her at that time.

“My whole life, everybody would tell me, ‘You’d be a really good coach.’ But I don’t like listening to other people sometimes, so I kind of denied it for a while,” Schirmer said. “My mom had been a teacher, and she also coached at the middle school level. I just saw the life they live and how stressful it could be, I knew how competitive I was, and I just really didn’t feel like I could be as competitive as I am and still be able to handle that stress level.”

For more on this story, please log in to your account and select the March 30, 2022 edition under “E-Editions.”

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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