Sweet weekend for Warhawk Women


Morgan Guenther

Freshman guard Kacie Carollo looks down the court during their first round NCAA tournament game in Kachel Gymnasium Mar. 4, 2022.

Mikey Rottier, Assistant Sports Editor

The UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 after victories in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Warhawks hosted Ripon College, Illinois-Wesleyan and Depauw University at Kachel Gymnasium Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5. 

In the first round, Illinois-Wesleyan upset Depauw University on a Kate Palmer buzzer beating three, and in another matchup Whitewater defeated Ripon College in a tough defensive stand. The teams advanced to the second round where Whitewater defeated Illinois-Wesleyan and earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, just four games away from a National Championship. 

On Friday March 4, Whitewater defeated Ripon College 58-34 in a first round NCAA Tournament matchup at Kachel Gymnasium. Both Ripon and Whitewater were sloppy and got off to slow starts. The score was tied 8-8 at the end of the first quarter, with the Warhawks shooting 4-14 from the field and Ripon shooting 3-13, and a total of 12 turnovers in the game. Despite the slow start Whitewater was able to find their stride and outscored Ripon 23-8 in the second quarter. Freshman guard Kacie Carollo provided a spark for the Warhawk offense hitting three shots from the perimeter in the second. Carollo finished the game with 15 points and 4-6 from three point range.

“We were able to get the lid off the basket in the second quarter. I felt like we were just nervous trying to force shots or force passes. You just get into those situations and realize that the one shot you take in the first or second quarter is not going to win or lose the game,” Warhawk head coach Keri Carollo said. “Once they start relaxing and letting the game come to them we do what we are really capable of doing.” 

In addition to finding their offense after the first quarter, Whitewater’s strong defensive  effort throughout the game helped them end the Red Hawks season. The Warhawks finished the game with 16 steals, 14 blocks, held Ripon under 12 points in each quarter and kept them to single digits for three of them. Junior forward Abby Belschner was a catalyst of this defensive effort and finished the game with a career best six blocks.

After defeating Ripon College, Whitewater advanced to round two against the Illinois-Wesleyan Titans. The Warhawks knocked off the Titans 72-54 in a physical matchup. Whitewater used the size advantage of post players Johanna Taylor and Aleah Grundahl right away. The Warhawks scored 36 points in the paint and out rebounded the Titans 43-29 with 17 boards on offense. 

Aleah Grundahl displayed an impressive performance and her 18 total points helped her surpass 900 points in her career. Grundahl worked the post throughout the game and suffered a number of aggressive blows from her defenders. Despite being frustrated with a few no calls from the officials, Grundahl kept working and scored six in the fourth to help close the game out for the Warhawks.

“I always know I am going to have a lot of contact around the rim so when that is happening back and forth, I look for my teammates,” Grundahl said. “I know when the defense is doubled or tripled down on me that someone is open. Being able to take my time, being strong, being physical and looking for my teammates or being able to just go up strong are the decisions you have to make.”

Grundahl’s 18 total points and Johanna Taylor’s contribution of nine points and 12 rebounds created a post presence for the Warhawks that helped compensate for poor three point shooting early. Whitewater finished 1-9 from the arch in the first quarter, Rebekah Schumacher and Maggie Trautsch were a combined 0-7 on three pointers at the end of the first half. The Warhawks were able to mend their three point efforts and finished the game 7-20. Yssa Sto. Domingo and Kacie Carollo each hit a pair of threes in the first half. Carollo added another one in the fourth quarter and Scumacher connected on both of her attempts in the third.

As the Warhawks advance to the Sweet Sixteen they keep their National Championship dreams alive. Whitewater will host the sectional rounds of the tournament Friday, March 11 and Saturday March 12 at Kachel Gymnasium. Whitewater will take on Smith College (Mass.) in the Round of 16 and the winner will advance to take on either UW-Oshkosh or Baldwin Wallace on Saturday for the right to play in the Final Four.