CRETE, NE – Mayme Conroy came to Doane in August as a grad assistant for women’s soccer.
Little did she know that she’d also be assisting as a women’s basketball player.
“I really have a passion for basketball,” Conroy said. “I haven’t played in awhile, but I was like, ‘Hey, why not?'”
Doane women’s basketball (4-17, 1-10 GPAC) has been plagued by injuries this season. Currently, seven members of the 20-player roster are inactive.
“(My staff and I) were just talking about some of our unfortunate injuries on our team and how we were lower in numbers,” head coach Tracee Fairbanks said. “It was just mentioned, kind of off the cuff, ‘Well, Mayme has another year of eligibility.'”
That conversation sparked Fairbanks’ first memories of seeing Conroy play with Omaha Skutt.
Fairbanks, in her 20th season at Doane, first heard of the two-sport star over 10 years ago.
“Someone said when Mayme was a (high school) sophomore, ‘You really need to go watch Mayme Conroy play,'” Fairbanks recalled. “So, I went and watched her play at Skutt. I remember talking to her after the game, but her mom (Beverly) told me that she remembers me saying, ‘I’ll let you come play at Doane right now!’ As a sophomore, because I could recognize her talent right there.”
Conroy was a basketball and soccer star at Omaha Skutt, but she gained state, and nationwide attention, on the pitch.
Conroy scored 17 goals in 12 state tournament games in her illustrious high school career , including the first goal in Skutt’s 2-1 victory over Gretna in the 2011 Class B state championship. That year, the SkyHawks became the first (and still only) team in Class B girls’ state soccer history to win three straight titles.
Conroy, the 2011 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year for girls’ soccer, totaled 85 goals and 37 assists to break Skutt’s career record for total points (207).
She was slowed by knee surgery her senior year, but by that point, it was pretty clear which sport Conroy would play at the next level. She accepted a scholarship offer from coach John Walker and Nebraska women’s soccer.
“I tore my ACL senior year,” Conroy said. “Then, I missed most of basketball my last season, so I kind of decided that I’ll just play soccer. UNL was one of the better offers, it was close to home, and that’s what I went with.”
The decision paid off for Conroy, earning second-team all-Big Ten accolades by her sophomore season in 2012. The Huskers then won the Big Ten Championship the following year on Nov. 10 – four days after Conroy’s 21st birthday.
“Doesn’t really get much better than that,” she smiled.
Walker, who’s been Nebraska’s women’s soccer coach for the last 25 years, remains in contact with Conroy. He recently saw her at a soccer recruiting showcase this past fall in California.
By then, Mayme had already been tossing around the idea of joining Doane women’s basketball.
“Mayme has always been the adventurous type,” Walker said. “She’s always loved team sports, and so it didn’t totally surprise me at all.”
Walker has countless memories of Conroy’s time on the soccer field – like when she was named second-team all-Big Ten for the second time in her career in 2014.
Or her hat trick at Wisconsin in 2012. Or her four career game-winning goals. Above all that, one quality about Conroy always stands out in Walker’s mind.
“The most endearing quality is kindness,” Walker said. “Extremely kind, generous, supportive, empathetic. A very honest person, and she was a very good teammate as well. I think kindness, when I think of Mayme, is what I think of.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in child youth and family sciences from UNL, Conroy wasted no time in building a coaching resume. She had already done some coaching with the Capital Soccer Association in Lincoln. Conroy’s also coached for Extreme Soccer (Lincoln), Elite Girls Academy (Omaha), and HappyFeet Youth Soccer.
In 2017, she coached and played in England for about six months for Redditch United.
Upon her return, she applied for a grad assistant position for Doane’s women’s soccer program, headed up by Jennifer Kennedy.
“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so I applied, I interviewed and got the job,” Conroy said. “Started in August.”
She started practicing with the women’s basketball team before Christmas, and played her first game on Jan 2. While Doane fell, 79-49, at then-No. 5 Northwestern, Conroy had a strong first impression – scoring seven points and grabbing three rebounds off the bench.
Five games in, she’s scored a total of 26 points and has tallied 23 rebounds, 13 steals and six assists.
This is the first time in seven seasons that Conroy has played organized basketball – keeping in mind that she had to sit out her senior season of high school due to a torn ACL.
That time away doesn’t come without at least a little hardship.
“I’m not that old,” Conroy said, “but I’m older than most of the girls and I just haven’t done competitive soccer or basketball in a few years, if not more.”
Despite that hiatus, Conroy earned her first-career start on Wednesday, Jan. 16, against No. 21 Hastings College.
As if her first collegiate basketball start wouldn’t be memorable enough on its own, the Tigers delivered a 68-62 upset against the Broncos.
Conroy snagged a season-high five steals in the win, which snapped a four-game losing skid.
“It was a good win,” she said. “I’m just excited for the end of the season. I think that we have a good opportunity to do pretty well.”
While this is her final season of eligibility, Conroy will be at Doane for the next year-and-a-half as she seeks a master’s degree in business administration.
Conroy came into Doane with an open mind – not 100 percent sure where her journey will take her next. How could she be sure, when gets thrust into a starting role on a college basketball team at the drop of a hat, after just one semester on campus?
Coaching has become a strong area of interest for Conroy, but for right now, she’ll focus on helping the Tigers finish strong in their final seven regular-season games.
“It’s a unique situation, and I’m thankful for it,” she said.
Of Doane’s seven games remaining, three of them are at home. If Conroy looks up in the bleachers at the Haddix Center, she might see a familiar face from her Nebraska days.
“Now that she’s playing, I’m definitely going to take a look,” John Walker said. “I’m a big fan of Mayme, and I think it’s a great story that she’s back on the court after all of these years. I’m definitely going to take a look at the schedule.”
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.
Hear the full interview with John Walker here.