Warhawks headed to Final Four

Women’s basketball


Mikey Rottier

Cutting down nets: Junior forward Aleah Grundahl (33) cuts down the net after the game to celebrate the win.

Mikey Rottier, Assistant Sports Editor

The UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team earned their spot in the Final Four after an electrifying weekend of basketball at Kachel Gymnasium in Whitewater. The Warhawks hosted the sectional rounds of the NCAA tournament Friday, Mar. 11, and Saturday, Mar. 12. 

In the third round, better known as the Sweet Sixteen, UW-Whitewater defeated Smith College (Mass.). This win set the Warhawks up for an Elite Eight matchup against UW-Oshkosh who also pulled off a third round victory against Baldwin Wallace University (OH.). The Warhawks fought through the tough Titan defense and with a late offensive surge and punched their ticket to the Final Four. 

The Warhawks took on Smith College (Mass.) in a thrilling Sweet Sixteen matchup at Kachel Gymnasium on Friday. The Warhawks and Pioneers fans were deafening on a rowdy Friday night in Whitewater, and the game certainly did not disappoint for the 1,220 spectators in attendance. Whitewater battled their way to a 78-76 overtime victory that came down to the last second. 

Whitewater came out with their usual strategy of racking up points in the paint. After scoring the first six points of the game, Aleah Grundahl and Johanna Taylor were silenced by the Smith defense. Smith did not allow either Warhawk post threat to score for the rest of the first half. 

The blow for blow, back and forth affair saw four Warhawks in double figures, including Aleah Grundahl who put together a crucial second half effort. Grundahl tallied 17 total points on the night after being held to four in the first half. 

With the post production low early, Yssa Sto. Domingo stepped up and totaled 15 points, making five of her six attempts from the perimeter. The leading scorer for the Warhawks however, was Kacie Carollo. The freshman guard led the Warhawks with 19 points and sank three of her six attempts from deep. 

After thirteen lead changes in the game, Whitewater came up big in overtime. Maggie Trautsch, who finished the game with 12 points as the third Warhawk guard in double figures, drew two shooting fouls and earned five free throws. Trautsch hit all five of them, and tied the game with just seven seconds left.

With Smith inbounding near half court, Rebekah Schumacher ran from the other sideline, disrupted the pass and kept it in play on a tip to Aleah Grundahl. Schumacher raced down the sideline and converted a layup with half a second remaining after a beautiful assist from her teammate. Schumacher’s heads up play kept the Warhawks in flight and advanced them to the Elite Eight. 

“The last thing I heard Coach (Keri Carollo) say was go for a steal, and that is what I did,” Schumacher said. “I got a hand on it and then Aleah grabbed it so I knew we had about five seconds left, just enough to get down the court.”

Whitewater had less than 24 hours to celebrate their Sweet Sixteen victory. The Warhawks suited up again on Saturday for a quarterfinal matchup with the Titans of UW-Oshkosh, a familiar conference opponent. After trailing for 28 minutes the Warhawks were able to switch gears in the fourth quarter and pulled together a 68-62 win. 

After a low scoring first quarter, the Warhawks led 8-7. Both teams saw higher production in the second, but it was the Titans that built a lead. Oshkosh outscored Whitewater 21-14, with the help of three made three point shots from Nikki Arneson, who finished with 9 points in the second quarter and 21 points for the whole game. 

The Warhawks trailed for the majority of the game and struggled to find good looks on offense. Fifth year senior Rebekah Schumacher decided to take things into her own hands in the second half. Schumacher fired a barrage of three point attempts to keep them in striking distance of the Titans, and generate an offensive spark. 

“Early on I was looking to take smart shots but after I saw a couple go in, that went away, and I just got the ball and shot it,” Schumacher said. 

After she finished the first half with just one make on five attempts from the arch, Schumacher drastically increased her production in the second half. She finished the game with six three point makes on sixteen attempts from the perimeter. She led both teams in scoring with a total of 22, and kept Whitewater close enough for a fourth quarter comeback.  

Freshman guard Kacie Carollo took control of the game in the last two minutes with the Warhawks trailing by one. Carollo strung together a three pointer, a layup and a pair of free throws. Carollo’s single handed seven point run solidified a Warhawk victory. After leading the team in points against Smith and burying Oshkosh in the last two minutes, Carollo has proven to be a crucial part of Whitewater’s offense in their tournament run. 

“The confidence that my teammates have given me is what has helped me progress this season,” Carollo said. “It is all them, it is all of their confidence in me, their passing and their defense that has made it possible for me to fill that role that I have kind of put myself in.” 

The Warhawks’ confidence in Carollo will be tested as they set their sights on the upcoming Final Four matchup with Amherst College (Mass.) and the shot at a National Championship. As they get ready to compete at the highest level, Coach Keri Carollo needs her team locked in on the task at hand, recognizing what is at stake.

“Once I get some time to reflect, I might get a little emotional but right now I want to win it all,” Coach Carollo said. “I want to get ready for Pittsburgh and get them ready and we can be emotional later.”

The Warhawk women’s basketball team will travel to Pittsburgh, PA later this week. They will take on Amherst College in a Final Four matchup Thursday, Mar. 17. Thursday’s semifinal contest grants the winner the opportunity to compete for a National Championship also held in Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday Mar. 19.