Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Women’s Basketball: ‘Hawks look to push pace

Dec. 4

By Kevin Cunningham

Fresh off an appearance in the national championship game just a season ago, the UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team is 5-1 overall after a 66-62 loss to Wheaton College Saturday night.

In the Warhawks’ first five wins of the season, the team has scored at least 90 points in four of the five games. In its last loss, the ’Hawks were outrebounded and got outshot from the field, as well as from behind the arc.

Mary MergWEB
Mary Merg

“Yes, we’re scoring 90 points a game,” senior guard Mary Merg said. “But the other teams are also scoring 70, which is high. Every night we’re not going to have a great shooting night, which is when we’ll have to rely on our defense.”

Senior point guard Kaitlyn Thill is leading the high-tempo Warhawks offense. Thill leads the team with more than four assists per contest but also is the catalyst behind the suffocating ’Hawks’ full court pressing defense.

Thill broke the UW-Whitewater career steals record last season as a junior, taking the No. 1 spot away from her sister.  Thill currently has 343 career steals and is averaging 5.5 steals per game so far this season.

Head coach Keri Carollo spoke highly of Thill, her court general.

Keri Carollo

“She’s a game-changer,” Carollo said. “Defensively, she can completely take over a game. Offensively, she’s smart, quick and can make great passes. She definitely creates opportunities for us as a team all over the place.”

When Thill was taken out of games last season, Abbie Reeves often would be the ball handler for the ’Hawks. Due to graduations and injuries, the sophomore is now in the starting lineup and has thrived from behind the three-point line so far.

Reeves has made 12 shots from behind the arc in five games and is averaging more than 10 points per game. With Reeves now starting, the team has looked to a new face when it comes to bringing the ball up the court when Thill is not in the game.

Freshman Reilly Stewart has taken control of the ball-handling responsibilities and, at this point in the season, is shooting over 46 percent from the field.

What makes the ’Hawks difficult to defend on a nightly basis is the team’s four-guard lineup they bring onto the court to start each game.

Apart from Thill, Merg and Reeves, senior guard Katie Burton has also assumed a starting role and is shooting 57 percent from behind the three-point line this season. While going small has its advantages for a high-pressure, guard-oriented team, overall post play can be looked at as a weakness.

Carollo’s club features one forward in the starting lineup, six-foot senior Amy Mandrell. Mandrell is a quicker post player who can run the court with the four guards around her, making her a viable fit for the up-tempo ’Hawks.

In the six games this season, Mandrell is averaging more than 14 points and nine rebounds per game. Mandrell’s best contest was when she posted 20 points and 14 rebounds in a win against the University of Chicago.

The fourth year of eligibility was used up this past season from the former two-time First Team All-WIAC center, Cortney Kumerow. Kumerow isn’t the only post player the team is missing from a year ago, as sophomore forward Lisa Palmer tore her ACL over this past offseason.

Losing two quality players down low has forced the ’Hawks to go even more up-tempo than they have in the past, but Thill is optimistic about the team’s chances, despite being smaller than usual.

“We have to be more disciplined on defense,” Kaitlyn said. “We just have to stay ready and play to our potential. A lot of people have stepped up and we’ve built chemistry over the course of our practices so far.”

The team’s next game is at home at 7 p.m. on Wednesday against the Elmhurst College Bluejays. The Bluejays enter with a 4-0 record overall.

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Founded 1901
Women’s Basketball: ‘Hawks look to push pace