Women finish second in WIAC basketball tournament


Morgan Guenther

Freshman guard Kacie Carollo takes a shot during the home game against the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Jan. 23, 2022.

Mikey Rottier, Assistant Sports Editor

The UW-Whitewater Warhawks women’s basketball team finished second in the WIAC tournament after suffering a tough loss to the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds in Kachel Gymnasium Friday, Feb. 25. By earning the first seed in the tournament through regular season play Whitewater received byes in the first two rounds.

In the semifinals the Warhawks took on the fourth seed UW-Oshkosh, and won. With this victory they secured their spot in the WIAC Championship against the Blugolds. The Warhawks were defeated and finished as the 2022 WIAC women’s basketball runner ups. 

After bypassing the first two rounds of the tournament, Whitewater faced off against the Titans of UW-Oshkosh in the semifinals at Kachel Gymnasium Wednesday, Feb. 23. The Warhawks were able to pull off a 67-59 victory. It was a back and forth affair, there were a total of six, eight to zero scoring sprees in the game. Junior forward Aleah Grundahl commented on playing in this sort of matchup. 

“That team is phenomenal. They have always given us a run for our money, and it is always back and forth with them,” Grundahl said. “We just knew going into today that it was going to be ‘survive and advance’ and we had to get the job done to get anywhere.” 

Grundahl finished the game with 19 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, but it was the Warhawks’ tough defensive efforts that helped them outplay UW-Oshkosh. 

“Defense was our number one factor today. We harp on defense all the time. If we are getting defensive stops, our baskets will start falling,” Grundahl said. “There were times we were struggling and had (scoring) droughts, but we knew every single time that our defense would pick us back up.” 

The win against Oshkosh earned the Warhawks a trip to the WIAC Championship game. UW-Whitewater hosted UW-Eau Claire at Kachel Gymnasium Friday, Feb. 25. The Blugolds bested the Warhawks and took home a WIAC Championship after a 77-63 victory. UW-Eau Claire guard Jessie Ruden took control of the game in the second half and Whitewater had no answer. Ruden scored 19 out of her 31 points in the third quarter alone, after going on an 11-0 run for the Blugolds completely by herself. 

“We tried to make adjustments during the game. We have not played anyone who has that ability to take over the game like Ruden did,” Whitewater Head Coach Keri Carollo said. “She is pretty special. In my 20 years of coaching I don’t know if I have ever seen a player like her.”

In addition to Ruden’s third quarter attack, foul trouble proved to be detrimental to the Warhawks in the second half. With a couple of high usage players quickly earning their third fouls in the first two minutes of the third quarter, key players like Kacie Carollo and Yssa Sto. Domingo were forced to step up and fill in a leadership role that they are not used to. The Warhawks sent Blugold players to the charity stripe 31 times, accounting for 28 of their points. 

“This is not something that we typically do, because we don’t foul this much. This is two games in a row now that we have had foul situations, so we have to be able to figure that out and not send teams to the line as many times as we did,” coach Carollo said. 

Whitewater will recover from the tough loss quickly and set their sights on the NCAA tournament. The Warhawks, who entered the WIAC tournament ranked eleventh in the country by d3hoops.com, will likely receive an at-large bid and get the chance to compete for a National Championship. 

“The most important thing is that they stay together. They understand that at any moment it can end and when you get an opportunity to play in a game you take advantage of that. I told them to just keep their heads up and focus on staying together. Anything can happen,” coach Carollo said.

These values of togetherness, optimism and not taking anything for granted will fuel the Warhawks’ National Championship dreams as they attempt to learn and improve from their WIAC tournament performance.