Wagner freshman Ashlyn Koupal a ‘coach’s nightmare’ for opposing teams

Playing more down low this season, coupled with her sharpshooting, Ashlyn Koupal has been a force for Wagner girls basketball as a freshman.

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Wagner's Ashlyn Koupal dribbles the ball around the screen as she drives into the lane against Andes Central/Dakota Christian during a high school girls basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Wagner.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

WAGNER, S.D. — As just a ninth-grader, the Division I offers are already rolling in.

And it’s understandable why Wagner’s Ashlyn Koupal is garnering so much interest from schools like Nebraska, South Dakota State, Colorado State, North Dakota State, South Dakota and Creighton.

She’s listed as a 6-foot-2 guard/forward on the Red Raiders’ roster. She can handle the ball and bring it up the court as a point guard, but she can also shoot the 3, and this year, she’s been featured down low more for Wagner, as well.

“She's good at the drop step, good at the spin middle, which is tough to defend because she can spin left, spin right,” said Mike Koupal, Wagner’s head coach and Ashlyn’s dad. “And for a freshman to be doing that, that just shows that she puts a lot of time in, she knows where the rim’s at. And then just to shoot from the perimeter, when you got to guard them 21, 22 feet, that just becomes a coach's nightmare defensively.”

A transition to playing more down low was one Ashlyn admittedly wasn’t a huge fan of at first, but she’s become more adept to it.


And with the transition, coupled with her outside shooting, her efficiency has taken a rise during her freshman year, too. During a three-game stretch this season, she scored 30-plus points twice and went 40-for-48 from the field, including a 36-point outing where she went 14-for-17 overall and 6-for-6 from 3-point range.

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Wagner's Ashlyn Koupal gathers the ball while being guarded by three Andes Central/Dakota Christian defenders during a high school girls basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Wagner.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

Both Mike and Ashlyn referenced shooting as something she’s best at on the court, and something she’s had to work at to get where she is today.

“I like to shoot 3s,” Ashlyn said. “I think my shot has really improved a lot in the offseason, just by getting on the (shooting) gun every day.”

On top of her shooting, Mike noted her ball handling, and said college scouts have brought up her vision on the court as a plus in her game.

Ashlyn was a fixture in Wagner's lineup as an eighth-grader last season and has played with girls older than her for much of her life, often as a teammate with her older sister, Macy Koupal, who's a junior.

"It was really helpful just to get the experience of playing with some people I'm playing with now and getting it years before," she said.

During the summer, Ashlyn Koupal plays for the Sanford Basketball Academy, where she said the chance to play with different people and coaches, as well as play multiple positions has been a benefit for her. And her dad mentioned that the competition she faced on that squad from all over the country helped her to better herself on the court, too.

If she’s not there, though, it’s likely she’s working on her game on the basketball court the Koupals have at home.


The court, which sits next to their garage, is 75 feet long with two rims — one on each side — that the family installed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But since there’s snow on the home court right now, Ashlyn gets to school early to get shots up before classes and continue to hone her craft.

“When you're wanting to come to the gym when we get home on a late night, 11:30 p.m. and you're waking up the next morning, you want to come to the gym, I mean, that's dedication,” Mike Koupal said. “And Ashlyn’s got that. It's her life. Basketball is her priority.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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