NIU athlete trailblazing her way to WNIT and U.S. Army

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A young woman is ready to take the world by storm. She's an athlete who dreams of a career in service and her infectious spirit and energy touching everyone around her.

They call her a trailblazer.

Ally Lehman is young and hungry.  She works hard but wants others to get the credit in sports, in training and in life.

She is a 22-year-old scrapper at Northern Illinois University who treats her point guard position on the women's basketball team like a full time job.

This week the team made history for the first time in 22 years. They're playing post season basketball. They're playing in WNIT: Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Ally is a team captain and badly wants a banner.

Her coach Lisa Carlsen says Ally is the driving force for the entire team.

"I don't think there is any doubt that she is the motor that makes us run,” Coach Carlsen says. "From a leadership standpoint and from a competitive standpoint, she brings an energy to the court that everybody wants to play hard for her."

Her teammates say it’s a matter of trust. Sports has been a true path for Lehman since she was a kid. She was a tomboy since she could toss a baseball with the boys in 5th grade and the only female on the football team.

These days, its hoops, school and so much more, the NIU Senior also splits her time on campus with the U.S. Army.

"I’m pretty sure she doesn’t sleep be I don't know how she fits it all in,” says Lt.Colonel Jay Morrison of the U.S. Army

Lehman is a cadet and one of only 10 others like her this year who were selected for infantry. She and the other nine are women and the only 10 from a pool of 5,000 plus. Lehman is the only female to serve from Illinois so far.

She was ecstatic about her assignment. It was her first choice.

"I’d like to break down some barriers for females and show them that there is a shot and can definitely get promoted from within,” she says.

"The physical demands of an infantryman make it a very difficult one to excel at,” Lt. Col Morrison says.

But excelling is Lehman’s specialty. From push ups to chin ups, five mile runs and hours on the basketball court. She works hard, plays hard and has a really big heart.  When her teammate Paulina Castro was diagnosed with cancer this year, she had to shave her head as chemo treatments began. Guess who else shaved her head as a show of solidarity?

"Paulina is very tough. I think a lot of people overlooks what she is going through,” Lehman says.  "You think, what a fighter."

If the team gets to hang a banner again for the first time in more than two decades, Lehman says it is because of Paulina.

"Paulina, I think has been the motivation behind the team. She has been the main person to play for."

Playing like a team mate, never quitting , giving others the credit and acting, not talking, about how to get it done; Lehman says she wants to lead by example.

"it's all fun. It's a blast. My every day. I'm lucky. I'm very fortunate to be able to have these opportunities right in front of me."

NIU’s Women's Basketball team takes on South Dakota State Thursday night in their first game of the post season.


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