Last Updated: Mon Jun 27, 2022 - 3:53AM
To be named the player of the decade at any level of college athletics is a major accomplishment, but to garner that accolade for an incredibly successful program like IUP women’s basketball speaks volumes about Carolyn Appleby. Although the former Greensburg Central Catholic and IUP standout has stopped playing the sport competitively, she has also helped mold the next generation of girls as a coach at her alma mater. Appleby is in the spotlight for this edition of Westmoreland Where Are They Now.
As a freshman at Greensburg Central Catholic in 2011-12, Appleby played a significant role for the Centurions, averaging nearly 9 points per game. The Centurions, meanwhile, compiled a mark of 17-7, defeating Burrell in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, but falling to Keystone Oaks in the quarterfinals. The team advanced to the state playoffs, but fell to Tussey Mountain in the preliminary round.
As a sophomore, Appleby helped guide the team back into the playoffs, as GCC went 10-2 in the section again, and finished 18-8 overall. The Centurions defeated Belle Vernon Area in the first round, but lost to Seton-LaSalle, both in the WPIAL quarterfinals and then in the PIAA second round.
In 2013-14, GCC went a step further. After going a perfect 12-0 in the section, the Centurions defeated both Laurel and Carlynton in the postseason. GCC fell to Burrell in the semifinals, however, and once again lost to Seton-LaSalle in the PIAA second round to conclude the season at 20-6.
As a senior, Appleby averaged 20.7 points per game, and was named Honorable Mention All-State, as well as First-Team All-Section. GCC went 21-5, including a 13-1 mark in the section. In the Class AA playoffs, the Centurions defeated Beth-Center, but lost to Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals. GCC once again advanced to the state postseason, and defeated West Middlesex before falling to Seton-LaSalle for the third year in a row.
“The relationships and the success we had, we won a lot of games,” Appleby noted. “That was fun being part of a winning team. It really set me up for success for playing college basketball.”
College basketball was not always a certainty for Appleby, though, as she was a talented softball player during her youth. A member of the heralded West Point Little League team, Appleby played in numerous national tournaments on the diamond with many girls who later went on to enjoy incredible success with Hempfield Area softball.
“Up until high school, I thought I would be playing softball in college,” Appleby detailed. “Something switched and I said to my dad one day “I love basketball.”’
With her path set, she fielded offers from multiple Division II schools. During the recruiting process, though, it was the connection she made with legendary IUP coach Tom McConnell that proved the determining factor.
“The biggest thing that drew me to IUP was Coach McConnell and the coaching staff. It was just exactly what I was looking for. It was kind of my home away from home,” Appleby detailed. “It was more than just basketball. Coach McConnell really taught us the values of being good people and embracing anything you might come upon in life.
“It was the best decision of my life,” she concluded.
As a result, she joined the Crimson Hawks for the 2015-16 season. The 5-foot-5 guard played in 29 games, all off the bench. She averaged 5.3 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, and added 16 steals. IUP went 21-9, including 16-6 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). In the PSAC tournament, IUP defeated Gannon and West Chester to reach the final, but fell to California University of Pennsylvania. IUP also lost to Virginia Union in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region to conclude the campaign.
The following season, Appleby drastically improved her production, contributing 14.7 points and 3.5 assists per game in 30 contests, all starts. She also collected 3.0 rebounds per game and 49 steals, shot 34 percent from behind the arc, and 87 percent from the foul line. As a result, she was recognized as a Second-Team All-PSAC West performer. Propelled by Appleby, IUP went 24-7, including 18-4 in the conference. This time, the Crimson Hawks won the PSAC Tournament, culminating with a victory against Cal U. In the Atlantic Region, IUP defeated Johnson C. Smith before falling to Virginia Union in the second round. Appleby was named the team’s Postseason Performer of the Year.
In 2017-18, Appleby started 34 contests, amassing averages of 15.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, as well as 47 steals. She also shot a career-high 45 percent from the field, as well as 34 percent from three-point territory and 76 percent from the charity stripe. Consequently, Appleby garnered First-Team All-PSAC West accolades. The Crimson Hawks compiled a mark of 30-4 overall, including 20-2 in the PSAC. Although IUP fell to Millersville in the conference semifinals, the Crimson Hawks rebounded in the NCAA Atlantic Regional, defeating Cal U, Glenville State, and Bowie State. Appleby’s play was paramount to the success, as she was named the Atlantic Regional Tournament MVP. From there, IUP defeated Stonehill in the Elite Eight, but lost to top-ranked Ashland in the Final Four.
In her senior year, Appleby managed to get even better, as she again started 34 games, averaging 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 58 steals, while connecting on 43 percent of her shots from the field, 36 percent from distance, and 78 percent from the foul line. Once again, she was named First-Team All-PSAC West. For the second straight season, IUP went 30-4 overall, including 18-3 in the conference. In the PSAC postseason, the Crimson Hawks defeated Seton Hill, Bloomsburg, and Kutztown to win the conference tournament, while Appleby was named the PSAC Tournament MVP. In the Atlantic Regional, IUP bested Bowie State, Virginia Union, and Cal U to return to the Elite Eight, while Appleby was honored on the Atlantic Region All-Tournament Team. The Crimson Hawks advanced with a win against Azusa Pacific, but lost to Southwestern Oklahoma State to conclude the campaign. Appleby finished her career as an All-American Honorable Mention.
Although she came up just shy of reaching the National Championship game, the opportunity to play in consecutive Final Fours, which were nationally televised, was one that Appleby cherished.
“That was the greatest experience,” she said. “Those are memories that I’m never going to forget. I get the chills talking about it.”
In 2020, IUP women’s basketball unveiled its All-Decade Team, and Appleby made the list. More notably, she was named the Player of the Decade.
“That was a great honor, and I think a lot of the girls who are on, we played together,” Appleby stated. “Those honors are great and all, but I couldn’t have achieved them without my teammates and coaches setting me up for success.”
Just months after her playing career ended, Appleby stayed involved in the sport, as she joined the GCC girls team as an assistant coach. She has been on the sidelines for the past three years, including the 2021-22 campaign in which the Centurions went 18-5 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals before falling to an old foe of Appleby’s – Seton-LaSalle.
During that same time, after graduating in safety science in 2019, Appleby joined the Urban Outfitters Performance Center in Indiana as a safety/operations supervisor. She maintained that position for approximately 2.5 years, but in March, she accepted a position as a safety specialist with Pro-Am Safety, moving to Cranberry in the process. At times, Appleby works from home, but she also goes into the office on occasion. Mostly, though, she travels relating to her accounts.
“A lot of what I do there is interacting with different accounts to help implement different types of PPE (personal protective equipment),” she explained.
While Appleby called the move to Cranberry a great fit, it likely spells an end to her coaching tenure with Greensburg Central Catholic basketball.
“I don’t know what the future will look like. Who knows where I’ll end up long term. But right now, I think I need to focus on my career and this new job change,” she noted.
Her decision coincides with the graduation of her brother, Ryan, and the resignation of her father, Tom. Ryan, a 2022 GCC grad, played both basketball and baseball for the Centurions, while Tom guided the baseball team to a 9-8 mark this past campaign.
“We’re stepping out,” she joked.
In a sense, it ends the Appleby era that spanned almost two decades at GCC. While Carolyn began her high school playing career in 2011, she had an older brother who played baseball and soccer, as well as an older sister who participated in softball.
Even without being involved in basketball this upcoming season, Appleby has found a few new hobbies to occupy her time and energy. She has taken up bike riding, and purchased a mountain bike during COVID.
Additionally, she has taken to golf as a way to fill the void left by basketball. Now in her second year playing the sport, Appleby seems motivated to excel on the links, just as she did on the hardwood.