Hannah Lekson is from Minnesota, known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes.
But her basketball career has resided in the land of many disappointments.
That was, until Monday — after the 18th-ranked University of Puget Sound women were selected to be part of the NCAA Division III tournament as an at-large team.
Skipping out on part of her work shift as a front-desk receptionist for the fitness center at the university, Lekson joined her teammates for the selection show. She could not hide her glee after seeing the UPS name come up as one of the 64 schools.
“I’ve definitely had my frustrations,” Lekson said.
And she’s had a winding path to reach this point.
Growing up in Lino Lakes near Minneapolis, Lekson was one of seven siblings. One of her sisters, Sarah, played Div. III basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Another one — Rebekah — was a Div. III soccer player at Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota.
But in 2008, after her mother visited cousins in Gig Harbor, she decided to move out to the Pacific Northwest. Hannah Lekson was the only child to join her.
“It was hard,” Lekson said. “Being around all my siblings … we were always together, always at each other’s sporting events. And after that, I felt like an only child.”
She enrolled at Peninsula High School in 2008 as a sophomore, and was part of a Seahawks girls basketball squad that advanced to the 2009 West Central District playoffs, where they were quickly ousted.
A three-sport performer in soccer, basketball and track and field, being involved in Peninsula athletics was the quickest way Lekson made new friends.
“At first, I just had my cousin — and she was a choir person,” Lekson said. “I needed to make friends. I needed to have someone around who shared my drive for sports.”
After graduating in 2011, Lekson joined a Yakima Valley Community College women’s basketball team that challenged for the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship, finishing second to Columbia Basin College.
It was there that UPS assistant coach Brandon Huntley saw her play, and recruited her back to Tacoma.
Last season, she was a bench player who saw limited minutes as the Loggers went to the conference tournament, losing to Whitman.
This season, Lekson carved out a much bigger role as the sixth man.
“Hannah changes the dynamic of the team when she goes in,” UPS coach Loree Payne said. “She is incredibly athletic. And she pushes the tempo of the game.”
Sometimes she teeters on playing fast and being out of control.
“At times she might be going a little too fast,” Loggers forward Amanda Forshay said, “but we like that.”
While a streaky shooter, Lekson’s biggest impact comes on defense. She is usually asked to lock down the other team’s top scorer.
“Ever since I was a little kid, defense was always the most important thing — and that is what I pride myself on,” Lekson said. “I can stir things up a bit.”
If the Loggers can win four games in the NCAA Division III tournament, starting with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Friday, they would reach the final four March 20-21 in Grand Rapids, Michigan — some seven hours from where she grew up, and where the rest of her family still lives.
“They have been super supportive,” Lekson said. “They have watched all of my games online.”