"Sister for life:" Ball State women's basketball honor three seniors in win over Eastern Michigan

Senior Annie Rauch leaps to score a point against Eastern Michigan March 1 at Worthen Arena. Rauch played 21 minutes of the game. Kate Tilbury, DN
Senior Annie Rauch leaps to score a point against Eastern Michigan March 1 at Worthen Arena. Rauch played 21 minutes of the game. Kate Tilbury, DN

Women’s basketball seniors Annie Rauch and Estel Puiggros have been roommates in the dorms and have now with each other for the past four years off campus. Rauch said she and Puiggros have been attached to the hip in their entire Cardinal career.  

After years of being together, the pair played together once more in Worthen Arena, potentially for the last time. 

“She is the closest thing I have to a sister. It means a lot I got to do this with her,” Rauch said.

Being from Spain, Puiggros said Rauch and her family have been her family in Muncie. 

“She is going to have a home in Spain whenever she wants to go. She is my sister for life.” Puiggros said through tears.

Whenever a senior day comes around, head coach Brady Sallee always wants to celebrate the women’s basketball class with a curtain call, points and a win. 

Each Cardinal (25-4, 14-2 MAC) senior was able to do that on their day in the 75-47 win over Eastern Michigan (6-21, 2-14 MAC). 

“If you want to talk about defining a program, these are the types of kids that make this what it is,” Sallee said. 

For Rauch, Puiggros and Sydney Shafer, it is a class that has been through a lot with COVID-19 and spending multiple seasons playing and competing. With Rauch and Puiggros especially, Sallee said he has watched the two women grow up in their time in a red and white uniform. 

When Puiggros first came to Ball State, Sallee said she just wanted to play basketball and was not as focused academically. Now, he sees Puiggros's maturity on the court and academically, even working through injuries at Ball State. 

“I wouldn’t say her career ever went by script,” Sallee said. “It was constant highs and lows, highs and lows, highs and lows. But isn’t that life? To see who she is and where she is right now, I do not know if she even realizes the transformation. I certainly see it and have loved my view of it.” 

Senior Estel Puiggros makes a sidearm pass to senior Annie Rauch against Ohio Feb. 3 at Worthen Arena. Rauch had eight points for the Cardnial win. Andrew Berger, DN

Fighting back tears, Sallee said in the coaching profession you never know when the blessings hit. Through the years, Sallee said Annie Rauch was a player who was everything he thought she was going to be and more. 

“You coach a few kids in your career when every time they put on the jersey, it means something to them,” Sallee said about Rauch. “You can see it by the way they play, by the way they talk, by the way they act. 

“When I hugged her at the end, I told her ‘You just had a career where you had 1,000 points and 500 rebounds,’ not too many people do that. Not only was she a glue kid, she was a really good player.”

Sallee said everyone hopes their daughters turn out like Rauch.

Even though Shafer transferred here two seasons ago, Sallee said she has been a great teammate and has always been a big part of Ball State's success. He said she always puts team success over her own personal success and he said not a lot of people are willing to do that. 

Rauch surpassed the 1,000-point mark on her senior day on a free throw in the fourth quarter. Rauch said there were a lot of emotions throughout the day. She finished with 17 points. 

“It is easy for me to get emotional, but I was just trying to stay focused on the game,” Rauch said. “Even when I was walking out at the beginning he [Sallee] is telling me I am not going to say too much because we were both going to get started.

“It was super emotional, I thank all my teammates that I have now and in the past. Crazy. Just a great day.”

The Puiggros family has not been able to make it out to many of Estel's games due to the far travel. But in attendance today, her family made it to Worthen for her.  

“My parents have only been here my freshman year, so I have been here on my own the whole time,” Puiggros said. “They came here on my visit six years ago. They started it with me and now they are finishing it with me. It means a lot.” 

For words of advice for the senior class, Sallee said the trio is ready for anything life throws at them. 

“They are going to have that epiphany moment five or ten years down the road and be like ‘You know what, he wasn’t crazy. He was exactly right,’” Sallee said. “What my hope is for them is they are going to be in a moment with adversity and have to make a tough call and they are going to take a deep breath and say ‘Been there, done that. I got it.’ That is important to me.

“They stuck with it, and now they are ready. I believe to my core that these three will continue to be stars. I can’t wait to see it.”

Sallee sees his players as one of his daughters. He talks to them the same, does the same things and expects the same out of them as his own.

“When you are blessed to coach women, your life can be different with those relationships,” Sallee said. “You can take all the trophies and nets and put them in the closet, I would take that [relationships 100% of the time]. My cup overflows there. Lucky guy.” 

Ball State will travel to Kent State to take on the Golden Flashes at 5 p.m. March 6. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

Contact Elijah Poe via email at elijah.poe@bsu.edu or on X @ElijahPoe4.


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