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Nothing but love from MAC Player of the Year Sophia Wiard for Muskegon and Toledo

Fifth-year senior guard and 2019 Oakridge alumna looking to propel Rockets as far as possible.

Toledo fifth-year senior guard Sophia Wiard, front, a 2019 Oakridge alumna, is photographed with dozens of supporters who traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich., on Saturday, March 2, 2024, for her game against WMU. (Courtesy of Renee Wiard)

Sophia Wiard loves her teammates and coaches on the University of Toledo women’s basketball team, much like she adores the Wolf Lake and Oakridge Public Schools community that raised her.

The feelings toward Wiard from family, Wolf Lakers and proud Oakridge friends and alumni are mutual. Dozens of them have traveled nearly 90 minutes to Kalamazoo and three hours to Toledo to support her.

“I mean, shoot, little Wolf Lake, man … we run deep, that’s for sure. It’s no joke,” Wiard said in a phone interview with CatchMark SportsNet on Thursday.

As if folks back home couldn’t be prouder, Wiard keeps giving them reasons. On Tuesday, the fifth-year senior guard was announced as the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year for the 2023-24 season.

In 30 games this season entering today’s MAC Tournament semifinals, the 5-foot-7 Wiard is averging 14.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.5 steals. She’s shooting an impressive 45.4 percent from 3-point range and 86.4 percent from the free-throw line. Toledo is 26-4 overall and finished 17-1 in MAC play, earning the top seed in the conference tourney.

This graphic produced by University of Toledo athletics highlights Sophia Wiard as the 2023-24 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. (Courtesy of Toledo athletics)

“(Toledo coach Tricia Cullop) told me the news and I was just kind of shocked a little bit. I knew I had a good season but, I mean, I didn’t drop 40 points every night,” Wiard said. “I still was shocked to hear it and just really grateful. … It just was crazy – it’s something you dream about, but not many people get the opportunity to be player of the year in a solid mid-major conference.”

It’s the second straight season Toledo has collected MAC Player of the Year and Coach of the Year awards.

Quinesha Lockett, the other half of the Rockets’ dynamic one-two punch, was chosen player of the year in 2022-23. Cullop earrned coach of the year in 2022-23 and 2023-24, her fifth and sixth times winning the award.

“I’m really thrilled for Sophia. I thought she earned it,” Cullop said in a story on the University of Toledo athletics website. “To have last year’s MAC Player of the Year (Lockett) be injured and miss significant time, there’s no question we would not have repeated as MAC champions if not for the contributions of Sophia Wiard. Her leadership and the way she commands our offense earned her this.

“There are a lot of great players in our league, so I think it’s a testament to how others in the league feel about her play this season.”


According to Wiard, the key to the Rockets’ success has been their chemistry on and off the court and the experience of their core group. Toledo truly has been a home away from home for Wiard, who has received much love and support in both locations.

This is Wiard’s final season with the Toledo women’s basketball program, her “COVID year.” She said that the key to the Rockets’ success is that their core group has stuck together.

“Us four – me and Q, especially,” Wiard said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, too, is I was working alongside Sammi Mikonowicz, Khera Goss, and Q – we were the starting four for four years now. I think that plays a really big element in my game. We just kind of continue to grow together. When you’re playing with people that you really care about, it makes you want to play a little bit harder and they also know your tendencies and I know theirs.

“It also comes with a great coach and we have a really good coach that honestly is a big reason we all stayed around. We love being coached by coach Cullop and I think that plays a major role in us wanting to stay at Toledo and wanting to play with each other. But, I think the biggest part of why we all stayed is because we all love each other.”

Make no mistake: Wiard still loves Muskegon with all of her heart.

Down the road, she would like to move back to her hometown, but she has some unfinished business first.


Toledo carries a 14-game winning streak into this morning’s MAC Tournament semifinals (10 a.m., ESPN+) against fourth-seeded Buffalo (18-12) at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The Rockets are looking to defend their MAC tourney title.

Last season, Toledo went 29-5 overall (16-2 in the MAC). The Rockets earned an automatic bid into the 2023 NCAA Tournament and, as a No. 12 seed, knocked off No. 5 seed Iowa State in the first round, 80-73. It was Toledo’s 17th straight win before the Rockets fell to No. 4 seed Tennessee — featuring Mona Shores alumna Jordan Walker — in the second round, 94-47.

Wiard & Co. are looking to return to the NCAA tourney and go even deeper this season.

“I feel like after last year, going to play in the NCAA Tournament, that’s been our goal. That was such a fun experience that we want to live it again and our goal this year we’ve been saying from the start is Sweet 16. We want to make a run at a Sweet 16 and see what we can do,” she said.

“I think, at the end of the day, we want to win the MAC Tournament. Our first goal was to win the regular season and we checked that box. But now it’s tournament time, so we’re looking to take care of the MAC Tournament, get some more hats we can wear – we all love the hats.”

Photos courtesy of Toledo athletics

Toledo’s program has been highly decorated during Wiard’s time there. Since the start of the 2021-22 season, the Rockets have posted an overall record for 84-15 (.848). They were 29-6 overall (19-1 MAC) in the 2021-22 season.

Wiard’s first two years at Toledo were more of a struggle for her and the team, as the Rockets went 14-17 (7-11 MAC) in the 2019-2020 season and 12-12 (8-12 MAC) in 2020-21 campaign.

The last five years have been a whirlwind, Wiard acknowledged.

“It’s (gone) insanely fast. I mean, freshman year in itself is a big transition and COVID was a weird experience, playing in front of no fans, fake fans, music, weird …,” she said.

“But, looking back at that stuff, it feels like it was a few months ago now, not four years ago. It’s flown by, but I think I’ve grown up a lot in those five years. … I love playing basketball and when you’re doing something you love, it goes by pretty quick.”

Wiard, a 2019 Oakridge alumna who was first-team all-state in basketball and softball, carried a 4.064 GPA in high school. She was selected the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame female student-athlete of the year award winner.

She’s still getting the job done at a high level in the classroom at Toledo. Wiard has already earned a bachelor’s degree in finance with a 3.88 GPA. Currently, she’s working on her master’s degree, an MBA (Master of Business Administration) with a focus on finance and carrying a GPA in the 3.8 to 3.9 range.

Going back to her Oakridge days, Wiard has been a leader in and out of the athletic arena.

“Q and Soph are one of the best duos that I’ve had the opportunity to coach in my career, and we’ve had a lot of great duos,” Cullop said. “They complement each other well, they’re incredible leaders, and their work ethic sets the tone for our team in practice every single day.

“In addition to all their statistics, they are incredible human beings. I’m honored to get to say I’m their coach. It’s been a joy to coach them and I’m glad we’re not done.”

Toledo fifth-year senior guard Sophia Wiard competes against Gonzaga on Nov. 12, 2023, in Spokane, Wash. (Courtesy of Toledo athletics)


Wiard and Toledo are trying to take it as far as they can this season. Whenever the Rockets’ ride ends, Wiard will shift her basketball focus to a professional combine April 6 in Cleveland, to which she’s been invited.

Wiard said she has been in talks with an agent and that she’d like to play a year or two overseas to see what that’s like.

Whenever Wiard’s playing career ends, she’ll figure out what to do career-wise — maybe something in finance, she said, and perhaps coaching. During the summer time, she’s been doing skills training on the side for young hoopers.

Wiard has been blown away by the support she’s received from the people in Muskegon who are still so proud of her.

“Everyone at my senior night that came, it was probably like 100-plus people there just for my senior night that drove three hours (from Muskegon),” Wiard said. “My last game at (Western Michigan University), we had way more fans than them because my whole family, everybody from Wolf Lake, came.

“I’ve appreciated them – the ones that come to the games, the ones that watch online, the ones that are using a golf simulator and watching the game at the same time, you know. I appreciate all of them and I love Wolf Lake. I (love) to go back home and that’s my home. I just appreciate everybody.”

Toledo fifth-year senior guard Sophia Wiard, a 2019 Oakridge alumna, poses for a photo with family and friends from in Cleveland on Thursday, March 14, 2024, as the Rockets compete in the MAC Tournament. (Courtesy of Sophia Wiard)


Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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