Siblings Molly and Maggie Zehner bring a family feel to the women’s basketball team
When it comes to playing basketball, it’s a family affair for sisters Molly and Maggie Zehner. For the last two years, Molly, a senior psychology major, has helped anchor the post position for the Webster University women’s basketball team. Maggie, a sophomore education major, has played point guard. But there is much more to these sisters and the rest of their family.
“My junior year of high school was like playing with my whole family,” Molly Zehner said. “I got to play with Maggie and my older sister, Sherry. It was just like a bunch of friends and family playing together. We were all so happy.”
The three sisters played together at Oakville High School in south St. Louis when Maggie Zehner was a freshman, Molly Zehner was a junior and Sherry Zehner was a senior. Oakville reached the district championship game that year.
“It was the most fun I ever had,” Maggie Zehner said. “It was a year that will be hard to top.”
Molly and Maggie Zehner moved on to Webster, and it has been a huge boost for the basketball program. Over the past two seasons, Webster has compiled a 32-19 record overall and a 22-10 conference record.
In the current season, Maggie Zehner is averaging 9.1 points, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals. Molly Zehner is averaging 3.8 points on 43 percent shooting from the field and three rebounds per game.
“They are sisters on and off the court,” said junior Megan Willett. “They know each other so well, and especially playing different positions, they know what the other is doing.”
Willett said it’s a big advantage to have sisters on the team because the Zehners are so close and they come from a basketball family. Their father, Steve Zehner, coached all three sisters and their brother, Danny Zehner, during their grade school years.
“Somehow, Maggie knows where Molly is going to be and the other way around,” said Webster coach Jordan Olufson. “You can tell how comfortable they are with each other on the floor, and it helps knowing your sister is out there to have your back.”
Their mother, Tammy Zehner, has watched the sisters grow up playing basketball.
“When they make a sister-to-sister pass, it is great to watch,” Tammy Zehner said. “Even though they have had some discussions, they really love playing together.”
As the Gorloks prepare for the SLIAC post-season tournament, the team will need what the Zehner sisters can bring to the table.
“Maggie is a great leader,” Willett said. “She calls the team together and talks to everyone. Maybe it’s because she is a point guard, but she is a natural leader. Molly rules under the basket and is a great teammate.”
Despite their age difference, Molly and Maggie Zehner came to Webster the same year. After a two-year stint at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, Molly Zehner wasn’t sure where she wanted to attend college.
“We actually did not know we would be playing together,” Molly Zehner said. “I was looking at other schools when Coach O. called me. Maggie was already coming here, so that was great. I fell in love with the university.”
Maggie Zehner visited Webster’s campus and knew it was where she wanted to be. She liked Webster’s small classroom settings and the university as a whole.
“I loved the campus and how comfortable Coach O. is,” Maggie Zehner said. “I saw how well he interacted with his players. I did not want to be in some large auditorium where I was just a number. I am so happy here, and to play basketball with my sister is great.”
Olufson knew that getting Maggie Zehner to attend Webster would fill a big void.
“Maggie was exactly the point guard we were looking for,” Olufson said. “We were graduating our senior point guard, Erin Chesnek, and we needed to bring in someone who could play right away and be explosive, and she was.”
In an odd twist of bad fate, three of the Zehner women have had ACL injuries. Molly Zehner tore her ACL in high school and wasn’t able to play her senior season. Maggie Zehner injured her knee during her junior year of high school and Tammy Zehner injured her knee in an event unrelated to basketball.
“I wish I had a good story for my injury,” Tammy Zehner said. “It was really unfortunate this happened to all of us.”
After graduation, Molly Zehner plans on attending graduate school in St. Louis. She wants to get her master’s degree in psychology counseling. Webster’s senior day for the women’s basketball team on Feb. 20 was emotional for the Zehners.
“When Maggie brought Molly her gifts at senior day, it brought tears to her eyes,” Tammy Zehner said. “Maggie never gets that emotional, but this was different. Of course I always cry.”
Olufson said he’ll miss Molly Zehner’s attitude and her work ethic.
“She has come up big for us this year with rebounds and key scoring moments, but it’s her presence in games and practices that I will miss,” Olufson said.
Although Maggie Zehner will be the only Zehner on the women’s team next year, Danny Zehner is currently being recruited to play for Webster’s men’s basketball team. He is a senior at Oakville High School and is considering Webster, among other schools.
“We are working on Danny so that he makes the decision to go to Webster,” Tammy Zehner said.
The sisters and the rest of the Gorloks open SLIAC post-season tournament play versus Fontbonne University on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. at Westminster College.