By Matt Zahn

CHICAGO (CBS) — Abbie Wolf has been at the center of Northwestern’s resurgence this season. The team is 17-3 and ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2016.

CBS 2’s Matt Zahn has her inspiring story.

“It’s nice to get that national recognition. Every game is a new challenge, but it’s about us, so we’re prepared to take on anyone in the country,” Wolfe said.

It’s no surprise that Abbie is prepared for anything. Last spring, she completed her journalism residency by taking a 10-week trip to South Africa.

The focus was on real estate reporting, but it ended up being about much more.

“I was coaching these girls and first of all, they walked down the hill in this township. The hoop was locked up in a parking lot. No lines for a proper basketball court. I got a picture of this kid unlocking the basket, pushing the basket out when the sun was setting. They looked forward to this all day. They had two balls for about 30 kids. A lot of them playing in worn out sneakers, a couple were barefoot and flip flops. It was completely eye-opening. Their enthusiasm was incredible,” noted Wolf.

One of the things Abby took away from her trip to South Africa was a greater appreciation for what she has at Northwestern, specifically the beautiful new basketball facility.

“On down days, when I’m coming into $190 million Welsh-Ryan Arena, wow,” Wolf said. “I’m like ‘wow, my mindset cannot be I’m tired for all the work I have to do.’ I need to bring the same energy these kids with nothing did,” Wolf said.

She and the Wildcats have brought the energy most nights this season, and now are in position to make the NCAA tournament for just the second time in the last 23 years.

“We’re poised to have a storybook ending.”