WIAC champs reap revenge


Head coach Keri Carollo cuts down the net and waves it to her team after winning her third WIAC tournament championship in her 21st season as the Warhawks head coach

Mikey Rottier, Women’s Sports Editor

The Warhawks handled unfinished business against the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds, who knocked them out of the WIAC tournament last year. The UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team claimed the program’s third ever WIAC tournament championship with a pair of wins at Kachel gymnasium this weekend.

After a first-round bye, earned for being the No. 1 seed in the conference, the Warhawks engaged in a home-court battle against the UW-Oshkosh Titans, Friday, Feb 24. Maggie Trautsch’s shooting touch led Whitewater to a 65-57 victory, and punched their ticket to the WIAC championship. Trautsch led the game in scoring with 21 points.

“We had a great practice all week, our coaches showed us what we needed to work on and we executed,” Trautsch said. “We stayed calm and we knew we had to win this game, so that’s what we did.”

The Titans came out full throttle and took a quick 14-2 lead. Trautsch got the Whitewater offense going with a deep 3-pointer followed by a coast-to-coast steal and layup from Kacie Carollo. That series was enough to spark a 20-5 rally for the Warhawks. A 3-pointer from Yssa Sto. Domingo gave them their first lead of the game, 22-19 midway through the second quarter. 

“We didn’t start out the greatest, but we stayed resilient and focused,” Whitewater head coach Keri Carollo said. “Once we got into the flow and rhythm of the game it started to click. This is a group of winners and we just have to keep that mindset.”

Whitewater held onto their lead through the second half. They relied on their center Abby Belschner down low, and the consistent offensive production from their guards Carollo and Trautsch. 

Even though they were able to win the game, Whitewater still suffered a loss on the court. All-American

#13 Kacie Carollo shoots a 3-pointer against UW-Oshkosh in their semifinal game in Kachel Fieldhouse on Friday February 24th

forward Aleah Grundahl left the game midway through the third quarter with an apparent injury to the wrist and did not return for the remainder of the contest. 

Senior forward Abi Baumgartner filled in for Grundahl who remained sidelined in the WIAC championship game against UW-Eau Claire. The veteran responded well to the pressure with a career high 12 points as she played an impact role in the Warhawks 71-62 victory.

“I just knew that I had to step up for the team,” Baumgartner said. “It has always been about the team, and with our best player out I had to step up. I just had to feel confidence in myself and contribute rather than just go through the motions.”

Both teams traded blows throughout the first half of the championship game. Whitewater started off hot from deep with four 3-pointers in the first quarter, but went cold and didn’t make any in the second. Carollo led the Warhawks in scoring with 8 points as they took a 31-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.

In the third quarter Whitewater started to pull away with an impressive 12-1 run, sparked by a 3-point play from Carollo. Trautsch added two more at the end of the quarter by sinking a contested mid-range fade away at the buzzer, which extended the lead to 51-37 for the Warhawks. 

#11 Maggie Trautsch shoots a 3-pointer against UW-Oshkosh in their semifinal game in Kachel Fieldhouse on Friday February 24th

They stayed hot throughout the fourth quarter and built up their largest lead of the game with 4:24 left, 64-47. Whitewater held off Eau Claire’s last-ditch comeback attempt, and became WIAC tournament champions. 

“They are a very strong team so it was important for us to come out with a strong start,” coach Carollo said. “I think what most motivated our team was playing for Aleah. I truly feel like that was more motivation than anything, because they wanted to win for her.”

According to Carollo, Grundahl’s injury will be reassessed at the end of this week and the team will know more about her potential return.

Carollo and the Warhawks will now set their sights on the NCAA tournament. Whitewater receives an automatic bid for winning the conference tournament and will likely host their regional matchups. The team will attempt to win as many games as possible, as they await the return of their All-American, and hope to make their way back to the National Championship.