Ayim, Snider Give Waves Two Senior Leaders

by Dick Dornan
Special to PepperdineSports.com 

MALIBU, Calif. - The Pepperdine women's basketball team will look to two special players to lead them for the upcoming 2009-10 season. Miranda Ayim and Taylor Snider are the lone seniors on this year's squad and each has her sights set on a successful year. As seniors on a very young team (six freshmen and five sophomores), Ayim and Snider will be looked upon for leadership, responsibility, accountability, motivation and direction. They are poised and ready to provide the necessary guidance. 

Head Coach Julie Rousseau considers her and the team fortunate to have two seniors who possess the character traits needed for leadership. 

"Our seniors are up to the task. They are great examples of our program," said Rousseau, who begins her sixth season at Pepperdine. "They exemplify excellence. Miranda has been a stellar ambassador of all our student-athletes and Taylor has demonstrated the determination to be a great leader. I'm excited for both of them and the opportunity for them to establish and leave their own legacy."

Ayim and Snider came to Pepperdine from a long distance away. Ayim hails from London, Ontario, Canada while Snider comes from Chicago, Ill. Each of them came west to be part of an exciting program and each of them has made her own unique path at Pepperdine.

Ayim was a two-time All-WCC first-team selection in 2008 and 2009. She is the epitome of the word "student-athlete" as she has excelled both on the court and in the classroom. For her tremendous efforts in both areas, Ayim was named Pepperdine's Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2008-09 and in the same year made the All-WCC Academic team for a second time. With only one season left in her collegiate career, Ayim is looking to finish strong and prepare for what's next in her future.

"I'm pretty excited about this year. We are really talented and excited about playing games," said Ayim, who has averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds in her career. "I want to improve statistically and also do my part in helping out my teammates. I want to show leadership and help out the young players on and off the court. I want to give them words of wisdom along the way."

As captain of the team, Ayim's presence on and off the court is instrumental to the growth and maturity of the team. 

"It's such a great honor," Ayim said. "It is something that I don't take lightly. I appreciate it."

Rousseau can't believe it is Ayim's last year. She remembers fondly when she went to recruit her in Canada during Ayim's senior year in high school.

"My first vision was walking down a dimly lit hallway when this tall young woman with radiant athleticism appeared," Rousseau recollected. "It didn't take long to know we had someone extraordinary. She is a woman of character and faith."

In assuming this last year in a leadership role, Ayim knows she has a teammate who will be making her own distinctive mark. Snider will be joining Ayim in making a one-two punch of enthusiasm and unbridled leadership.

"She has been great," Ayim added. "We have become closer over the last year and a half. We have had dinners together with the team, team meetings to prevent 'breakfast clubs' (she chuckles) and together we make it a point to review mistakes to show the young ones how to do things the right way. All of them are going through what we went through ourselves."

Both Ayim and Snider stayed at Pepperdine during the summer to work on their games and make a positive influence upon the team. They recognize that they need one another to make this season a memorable one. Bill Withers' song, Lean on Me, will be their theme song as they support each other.

"We have such a young team," Snider said. "As a senior, I'm more conscientious. I have learned what to do and what not to do. I just want to lead by example and lend a helping hand. I don't want to put myself on a pedestal. Anytime I see someone struggling, I will give them encouragement. Words of encouragement go a long way."

She has had the team over to her house for a team dinner once or twice a week. They go to the beach together. This is the stuff that counts in cultivating life-long friendships and developing team chemistry.

"I definitely feed them," Snider laughed.

After transferring from Allen County Community College in Iola, Kan., where she led the nation's junior colleges in rebounding at 14.7 rpg in her freshman year, Snider has aspirations to make a big contribution to the Waves this year.

"I'm so hungry. My confidence is up and I'm ready to go," Snider said eagerly. "I'm a hustle player who does the small things. You might not see me on ESPN but I might be the reason that the play happened. I'm a role player and I understand that. But I'm so excited. Everyone is here for the team. We have one common purpose and that is to win. Everyone wants to get it done."

Her attitude and personality is infectious amongst her teammates. Frequently, one will hear words of encouragement from Snider such as 'Good hands, Shay' (for freshman Shay Cooney-Williams), 'Good job, Joy' (for junior Joy Lelo) and 'You got it, Kels (for freshman Kelsey Patrick). She is full of energy and the perfect complement to the quiet-yet-dynamic player in Ayim.

"I've seen Taylor grow into someone who will make an impact on this team and her own future," Rousseau stated. "She keeps people grounded on the team. She has a gift to make people feel good. She wants to step out of her own shadow and have a positive influence on this team."

Snider has goals beyond basketball that include being the next Oprah Winfrey. Whether it is in front of the camera or behind it, show business has Snider's name written all over it. Majoring in broadcast and journalism, she has written a script at school that she intends to pitch to the media. Ayim, majoring in public relations, hopes to help promote Snider's work. Teammates on the court, friends off the court.

"Just maybe, together we could hit it big time," Ayim said.

These two ladies have already hit it big time with their professionalism on campus and passion for basketball as a Wave. They have this final season to cherish together before moving on to the next chapter in their lives. While Snider has her dream of working in show business, Ayim is looking at all her options, including getting a master's degree, playing basketball abroad in Europe or going back home to Canada.

"I feel like I have a lot of options, which is good," Ayim said. "What I will remember are not just the games, but the fun times. This is a fun-loving team. I'm able to have fun doing something I love."

Speaking about the upcoming season, Snider says, "I want this season to have a lasting impression on my life. It's so surreal to be a senior. It really hits home. I want to make it count. I want this year to mean something special and be able to walk away from the game knowing that I gave it my best. That would make me feel complete. Accomplishing our goals in my senior year would have a huge impact on the rest of my life. I believe this team can do it."

As Rousseau looks to build upon last year's third-place finish in the WCC, she has to look no further than to her two seniors as the foundation. They may not be two peas in a pod, but they are two unique people who have taken different paths to the same goal.




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