Women’s Hoops ‘All In’ for tourney

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By Adam Reed

March 2, 2016

The 24th-ranked UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team (19-7 overall) is headed to the NCAA Division-III National Tournament. It will be the 15th time the Warhawks have competed in the event.

Players were informed their selection to the tournament following a team meeting on Monday, Feb. 29. The team learned its fate during the tournament selection show, which aired at 1:30 p.m.

“A few girls kind-of had an idea that we might [be selected],” senior forward Lisa Palmer said. “Personally for me, I had no idea, so when our name came up on the computer screen I was just in shock. I just couldn’t believe that this was actually happening.”

UW-W is one of four WIAC teams to be selected to the tournament this year. They join UW-Oshkosh (22-5 overall), UW-Stevens Point (20-7 overall) and this year’s WIAC champions, UW-River Falls (22-5 overall).

UW-W is the only team from the WIAC on its side of the bracket, which means the team would have to advance all the way to the championship game to have the possibility of facing one of its conference rivals.

“It’s a cool opportunity to have four teams in the tournament representing for the WIAC,” senior center Emily Jensen said. “We are lucky enough to be one of them. I think going into the tournament it will be interesting to see how other teams do, but ultimately we are really just worried about where we can go.”

The Warhawks return to Division-III’s biggest stage after missing the tournament last year for the first time since 2007. They are scheduled to face the Bluffton University Beavers (25-2 overall) of Bluffton, Ohio, in the first round. The winner will go on to face the winner of the Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri) and Greenville College (Illinois) game.

Bluffton won its first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in program history on Feb. 27, and it enters the game riding a six-game win streak.

The Warhawks enter the contest on a three-game skid, losing to UW-Oshkosh and UW-Eau Claire in the final two games of the regular season, and then losing to UW-Eau Claire again in the first round of the WIAC tournament.

UW-W was able to keep the score close for the majority of the game and trailed by only seven points with less than four minutes to go. After a steal by sophomore guard Brooke Trewyn, senior guard Abbie Reeves buried a 3-pointer which would have brought the Warhawks within three, but the shot was called off, as Jensen was whistled for an illegal screen.

“Definitely a frustrating moment for me and [for] Abby as well,” Jensen said. “She knocked down the shot after they called me for the foul. I haven’t really been called for a lot of moving screens all season, so for it to come at that point was tough.”

The lead for UW-Eau Claire only increased from there, and they ended up winning by a score of 69-59.

Sophomore forward Andrea Meinert led all scorers for the Warhawks with 14 points off of 7-of-14 shooting from the field. Trewyn had nine points, and both Reeves and Palmer each added eight. Trewyn and Palmer led the Warhawks in rebounding with six each.

For Eau Claire, it was senior  guard Teenie Lichtfuss and sophomore center Erin O’Toole leading the way with 23 and 20 points , respectively. O’Toole finished the game with a double-double, adding 12 rebounds, and junior Arien Becker finished one rebound shy of a double-double, contributing 10 points and nine rebounds.

UW-Eau Claire was not selected to the national tournament, despite besting the Warhawks in back-to-back games. UW-Eau Claire ended its season in the second round of the WIAC tournament, falling to UW-River Falls, 53-47.

“I think it’s hard to play a team twice during conference [play], let alone a third time,” Palmer said. “I think we really struggled to finish. We had a couple of defensive lapses [as well], but we just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”

In spite of the three-game skid, the Warhawks still managed to be selected to the tournament and finished with an 8-6 conference record, 9-7 overall.

The matchup with Bluffton is the first step of the last opportunity of the season for the Warhawks and will be held in St. Louis, Missouri on March 4. For the seniors, it may be the last chance they have to put on the Warhawk uniform.

“Our coaches keep telling us that we’ve really got to play with a lot of emotion and high intensity,” Jensen said. “When it comes down to it we have to be all in, and that’s been our phrase for the year, all in at all times.”