Basketball shoots for first National Championship

Cutting+down+nets%3A+Junior+forward+Aleah+Grundahl+%2833%29+cuts+down+the+net+after+the+game+to+celebrate+the+win.

Mikey Rottier

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

Mikey Rottier, Women’s Sports Editor

After falling just one game short of the program’s first ever National Championship, the Warhawk women’s basketball team will look to make it back to the Final Four and go the distance in the 2022-23 season. 

Head Coach Keri Carollo will enter her 21st season as the Whitewater basketball coach. She will lead a promising squad that consists of both experienced veterans and young talented players. 

“They are really excited to be back in the gym together again,” Carollo said. “We are hoping to put together another really good season and build off what we were able to accomplish last year.”

From the starting lineup, Carollo’s daughter Kacie will return for her second season, along with fifth year guard Yssa St. Domingo and decorated forward Aleah Grundahl. 

The team will be tasked with filling the gap left behind after the departure of center Johanna Taylor and guard Rebekah Schumacher. Both Schumacher and Taylor played big roles in the Warhawks 2022 tournament run. 

“We have just been focusing on making sure everyone is ready,” Grundahl said. “Even players who maybe didn’t have as big of a role last year, we are just trying to make sure everyone is prepared in case someone goes down or someone gets into foul trouble, we want that next person up to be ready to go.”

 The team’s recent success within the conference and at the national level, has put a target on their back for opponents trying to prove themselves. This year’s team is determined to uphold the reputation built before them.

“At Whitewater, whether it is women’s basketball or any other sport, we always feel like there is a target on our back, because of that sustained success,” Carollo said. “This team is embracing that and this year we have a saying, ‘pressure is privilege’. It means we have earned the opportunity to have that pressure, we like that pressure and we are going to find a way to turn that pressure into positive energy.”

Despite last year’s impressive season, they know there are still a few things they wished would have gone differently. The Warhawks suffered a loss to UW-Eau Claire in the conference tournament after finishing the season atop the WIAC standings, and although making it to the National Championship was a historic accomplishment for the program, they were not completely satisfied with their second place finish. 

“There are definitely some motivating factors that have happened to this group in previous seasons,” Carollo said. “We want to make sure that we keep it all in perspective that this is a new season and we focus on this season but also utilize the experiences we have had to help better ourselves.”

Grundahl will be entering her fourth year with the women’s basketball team and is no stranger to the competitive nature of Warhawk athletics. With the pressure that can come with playing for such a high profile program, Grundahl knows the importance of her leadership for the younger players on the team. 

“Everyone wants to beat us,” Grundahl said. “The most important thing to me as a leader is helping our new players learn what it means to play with Whitewater across their chest. Being able to show them that everyone knows your name around town, and how important we are to the campus is what I think helps prepare them for that pressure.”

The expectations may be high for the women’s basketball team but they hold themselves to higher standards than anyone else. With the season just around the corner the Warhawks are fueled by excitement, and simply, their enjoyment of playing the game.

“I am most excited about getting back out there with everyone, seeing everyone in the crowd and getting all of our fans back that we had for last season,” Grundahl said. “We are going to have a day by day, living in the moment mentality but ultimately our goal is to get back to the National Championship and bring home the gold this time.”

The Warhawks open their season against Carroll Friday, Nov. 11 at home for the UW-Whitewater tip off tournament. Coach Carollo and her team will look to get revenge on the Pioneers who they suffered a loss to last season.