The UW-Whitewater Women’s basketball team won both their games this week, clinching the WIAC Championship outright on Wednesday night over UW Oshkosh (15-10 [8-6 conf.]) with 75-71 victory. The Warhawks (23-2 [13-1 conf.]) finished out the season with a trip to UW-Stout (15-10 [6-8 conf.]) Feb. 22 and won 65-56.
The championship is the sixth of head coach Keri Carollo’s career in her 19 seasons at the helm.
It’s also quite possibly her most unexpected. At the beginning of the season, Carollo wanted to talk about two things: her team was young, and they had good chemistry. The year was shaping up to be a rebuilding project.
With only two seniors, the Warhawks had to lean heavily on underclassmen like Aleah Grundahl, Veronica Kieres and Yssa Sto. Domingo.
“At the beginning of the year, we talk to our freshman about how they can’t be freshmen,” she said. “They’re gonna have to step in and really play a big role for us.”
The Warhawks 23 wins speak for themselves, but a team can’t get that far in a season without individual points of brilliance. Freshman forward Grundahl has been a huge addition for the team, scoring 9.9 points per game, the top mark in the league for a freshman. She’s formed a perfect tandem with Johanna Taylor, the team’s defensive anchor. The two combined to form the most formidable post defense in the league, and quickly turned the rebuilding project into a win-now mentality for the team.
Grundahl said “Our captain Becky took me in and worked me hard,” after the win over Oshkosh. “We knew that if we worked together we’d get through this.”
One thing that has been expected since the beginning of the season is the contribution from Becky Raeder, the Senior from Sheboygan Falls. She’s been a four-year player and has started over 85 games for the Warhawks. She’s provided leadership for Grundahl and the rest of the freshman by being the floor general, commanding the offense and directing man-to-man matchups.
The game against Oshkosh was a perfect summary of the season so far. The game saw the Warhawks play tough post defense, but Oshkosh was able hit 4 three-pointers in the first half. Whitewater led at half 39-34.
Taylor, who patrolled the paint all night, was fired up after the game. “I knew as a team we wanted to demolish Oshkosh. 1, they’re rivals and 2 they beat us,” she said.
Oshkosh managed to keep the game close down the stretch, and hit another three with just 43 seconds left, taking a one-point lead.
On the next possession, Veronica Kieres drove straight down the court, and drove right into the teeth of the defense, making a hard-nosed layup to put the Warhawks up for good with just 18 seconds left. The bench went wild, to the tune of a conference championship finally being achieved.
The fanfare lasted until well after the game, with a net-cutting ceremony being the final event in a wild WIAC season for the ‘Hawks. Up next is a berth in the conference tourney, and an appearance at the National Championship.