Women’s basketball beat UW-Stout to rank No. 6 in DIII

Ethan Maurice, Sports Editor

The No. 6 ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Women’s Basketball team sealed its 13th straight win on Saturday, Jan. 18 with a 72-56 win over conference foe UW-Stout on Alumni Day.

The Blue Devils kept the game close until midway through the 3rd quarter, when Whitewater’s defense finally shut the door on Stout.

With a dwindling two-point lead, a big block from Freshman Aleah Grundahl spurred a Whitewater fastbreak, ending with a trip to the line and two points for Senior Becky Raeder. On Stout’s next possession, Raeder forced another steal, and in two passes the ‘Warhawks had another fastbreak layup, extending the lead safely back to six.

“It all starts on defense for us,” said Warhawk head coach Keri Carollo.

This sequence signaled the beginning of the end for Stout, who fought hard, but couldn’t match the Warhawks defensive intensity. Stout boasts the top scoring offense in the WIAC, but it was held to just 32 percent shooting by the Whitewater defense, who forced 11 steals and 9 blocks.

“They are second in conference. If we would’ve lost, we would’ve been tied for first. So We knew we had to play really well tonight,” said Grundahl.

The Warhawks brought intensity and pressure from the beginning, when they jumped out to a 7-0 lead. However, the Blue Devils responded by going on an 8-0 run, matching the Warhawks blow for blow.

Grundahl, from DeForest, Wisconsin, was the key to the Warhawk offense. She scored 17 points- a game high. She combined beautifully with the Warhawks other post, Johanna Taylor, to get high percentage shots at the rim.

“They just have a knack for finding each other, and that’s hard to get,” said Carollo.

The coach needed all she could get from her two starting posts, as backup Abby Belschner went out early in the first quarter with a leg injury.

Coming out of the halftime break, Whitewater led 32-23, but saw Stout use an intricate offense full of screens and pick ‘n rolls to cut the deficit.

“There’s so much screening action it’s hard to guard,” said Carollo.

The third quarter grew tense, but as Stout’s offense came on, Whitewater only stuck to them tighter.

“We work on defense a lot in practice, we work on it every day, most of the practice is defense. When we play defense together, we know we will be successful,” said Grundahl.

If Grundahl is the key to the offense, Taylor is the key to the defense. She leads the league in blocks with 26, including six against Stout on Saturday.

As the fourth quarter ticked away, the Warhawks extended their lead, putting the Blue Devils to bed. They stretched the lead to 18 points, drawing cheers from a crowd containing alumni from Warhawk teams from the past.

One voice in that crowd belonged to Olivia Freckmann, an all-conference player who graduated last year. She was happy to be back to support her old team and meet up with other former players.

“It really truly is family when you come back, and it feels awesome to be back,”Freckmann said.

She was treated to a wonderful performance by her successor in the “four” position, Grundahl, who finished with two rebounds and one steal to go with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

“It looks like she’s got a better shot than me,” said Freckmann with a laugh.

With the Warhawks 15th win of the season, the expectations are high as the semester begins. The games over the next six weeks will determine the season’s outcome, from WIAC standings to national tournament seeding.

“Our team is so unselfish as is, none of us care about our stats. We just want that team win and we want to keep going. We want to go as far as we can,” said Yssa Sto. Domingo.

All of this was done without last season’s leading scorer, Emily Schumacher, who sustained an ACL injury over the games during the winter break.

“That’s a big loss,” said Sto. Domingo of her All-WIAC teammate, who was averaging 8.3 points and 2.2 assists per game. “Emily has such a huge impact on our team. We all need to step up to fill that void,” she said.

The injury is expected to keep her out for the rest of the season, which was confirmed when she had season-ending surgery.

Filling in that void will take everything this team has got. Players like St. Domingo and Veronica Kires will have to eat up minutes that Schumacher would’ve played, and the team will need more leadership from senior Becky Raeder.

The upcoming week will see the Warhawks face Platteville at home on Jan. 22 and Oshkosh away on Jan. 25.