Female leaders foster success

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Mikey Rottier, Women's Sports Editor

In the last 50 years, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has seen eight team National Championships, six National Athletes of the year, and countless individual National Champs, in women’s sports alone. Since Title IX was passed in 1972, Whitewater has created one of the most powerful women’s athletic programs in the NCAA. 

Keri Carollo is the Senior Woman Administrator for the University and also serves as women’s head basketball coach. Carollo has first hand experience of the success of women’s sports at Whitewater after taking her team to the fourth final four appearance of her career in the 2021-22 season. Beyond her work on the court, Carollo is in charge of promoting the meaningful representation of women in leadership roles in the athletics program. 

“In general, I think that young people identify better with people they relate to,” said Carollo. “As a women’s coach I think it is important to be able to strongly identify with who you are working with, and also be able to set a strong example that women can be great role models and leaders to the young women within our athletic department.”

Not only have the Warhawks created a one of a kind experience for student-athletes, but the athletics program is stacked with several of the greatest female coaches at the division three level. Athletic Director Ryan Callahan is proud of what the Warhawks’ female head coaches have accomplished.

“Whitewater has done a good job of not only bringing in high-quality female student-athletes and providing them a great experience but also putting female coaches into leadership roles and I think that’s really important,” Callahan said. “When I think about what we have done well it is the enhancement of the student-athlete experience and also having put women in leadership roles to be solid mentors.”

The path to greatness for these outstanding female leaders in Warhawk sports was paved by the ones before them like Dr. Dianne Jones. Jones is honored in the Whitewater Athletics Hall of Fame and for good reason. In her time at Whitewater she served as women’s basketball coach with a career record of 229-103, and was also extremely influential as the women’s athletic director. 

“Dianne Jones definitely deserves a shoutout,” said Carollo. “She really laid the groundwork for the rest of us here at UW-Whitewater and showed what we can be capable of. It is a constant reminder to us as coaches to respect the past and appreciate the future.”                     

One of the first people to come to mind when addressing the success of women’s sports here at Whitewater is the current gymnastics head coach Jennifer Reagan. In the last 12 years, Reagan’s gymnastics teams have finished no worse than fifth in the country and have totaled five National Championships. Reagan has created a division three powerhouse in her time at Whitewater. As head coach she has seen 20 individual National Champions, three NCGA coach of the year honors and countless other awards and accolades to her name. 

Another female coach who has taken their program to new heights here at Whitewater is volleyball coach Stacy Boudreau. Boudreau led her team to a National Championship victory in her very first season as head coach in 2005, and has recorded top three finishes twice since. 

“I think it is great for all the women in our department and our student-athletes to see that there is success to be had with hard work,” said Carollo. “Success fosters success and we have really been blessed with such influential pioneers in our department. It is tremendous to be a colleague of theirs and learn from what they have experienced and work with them.”

Other notable Warhawk female coaches include golf coach Andrea Wieland who is in the midst of a record breaking season with the women’s golf team, bowling coach Leann Sullivan, swim and dive coach Elise Knoche and softball coach Brenda Volk who achieved her 700th win in the 2022 season. Volk is the winningest coach of all time in the WIAC and ranks top ten in all of NCAA division three.

Obviously Whitewater’s success can be quantified by National Championships, and other accolades, but it is safe to say that the impact of being a Warhawk goes deeper than the win column. Carollo reminisced about her student-athlete experience and how it differs from the experience she hopes to give her athletes.

“When I was a student athlete it was not equal,” said Carollo who played basketball at Cal Poly Humboldt. “For me to now be a head coach in this day and age and how much I have seen, I want to give them not just the opportunity to play basketball but have the support they deserve. It has been fun for me to see how much it has changed over the years.” 

Title IX and the influence of passionate female leaders like Carollo and many others, leaves a lasting impact on Warhawk student-athletes. More importantly, it paves the way for future female generations to become leaders and make even further strides in women’s sports.