By Kevin Cunningham
According to the latest d3hoops.com top 25 poll, with five of the top 12 teams in the Warhawks’ women’s basketball region in the NCAA Tournament, it would be hard to argue that the team lucked out when the brackets came out Monday, Feb. 25.
The one bright spot for the ’Hawks heading into the tournament is that the team will play at home in the first, and if they win, second round of the tournament.
“To have an opportunity to host any round is really exciting,” head coach Keri Carollo said. “I think it’s well deserved on our team’s behalf. They worked extremely hard during the season to win the conference.”
The first round matchup for the ’Hawks comes at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 2 against Wisconsin Lutheran College (25-2). The Warriors bring a lot of things to the table with them as they enter the NCAA Tournament. One of those things is their 17-game winning streak.
Having lost only two games all season, both of which to nationally ranked top 25 teams, the ’Hawks will have their hands full in the very first round. Leading the Warriors is senior guard Shavon Dillon. Dillon, averaging 14.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4 assists per game, is the heart and soul of the Northern Athletics Conference champs.
Countering Dillon will likely be junior guard Kaitlyn Thill. Thill is the ’Hawks’ all-time leader in career steals, so her pressure alone will make this an intriguing matchup to watch. The ’Hawks often have the advantage down low, where Cortney Kumerow and Lisa Palmer shine. Kumerow, one of only two players in UW-W history to record 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocked shots, has been an anchor for the ’Hawks all season long.
To contain the 6-foot-1-inch Kumerow, the Warriors possess a 6-foot-3-inch post player in Kristen Schulz. Schulz, a sophomore that averages 8.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game, will be a key factor for the Warriors. With averaging only just over eight points per game and shooting under 50 percent from the free throw line, Schulz isn’t the biggest threat offensively, but her defense could end up being the story of the game.
Thanks to Schulz, unlike most of the regular season, Kumerow may not get double teamed as soon as she receives the ball. If she does receive double teams, outside shooting will be a key factor in Friday night’s game. The top 3-point shooters for the ’Hawks include Thill, Abbie Reeves, Mary Merg and Megan Theune.
If these shooters can knock down their open looks, the ’Hawks could very well be playing in the second round on Saturday against the winner of Thomas More College (27-1) and Carthage College (23-4).
When coaches say they take one game at a time when the team is in a tournament of this magnitude, they aren’t kidding.
When asked about how much time this week was being spent on the ’Hawks’ potential second round matchup, whether it be Carthage or Thomas More, Carollo said, “None at all.”