Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Warhawks fall at home in WIAC tournament

Elijah Bartels

The Warhawks matched up against the UW-Stout Blue Devils in the opening round of the women’s basketball WIAC tournament. The fired-up Warhawk crowd at Kachel Gymnasium and the implications this game had on NCAA tournament seeding made for a high-pressure environment that embodied the competitive spirit of postseason basketball. Despite the home advantage, the Warhawks fell to the Blue Devils by a score of 69-59, Wednesday, Feb. 21.  Coming into the matchup, the Warhawks were fresh off a five game stretch that saw the Warhawks rattle off four wins in a row.

The Warhawks opened up the game with poor efficiency shooting the basketball and had a tough time finding their rhythm offensively throughout the game. After the first 10 minutes of action, the Blue Devils led by a score of 18-9. The Warhawks were 3-16 from the field with the bulk of their attempts coming from beyond the arc, where they connected once out of 12 times. 

“We’ve been talking about this all year long with our team. Eventually, they would have to step up and make shots to open things up for our post-game. In the first half, it was obvious we didn’t knock them down,” said head coach Keri Carollo.

The Stout Blue Devils have the best offense in the WIAC in terms of points per game, and the Warhawks had a tough time matching the Blue Devils efficiency. The Blue Devils leading scorer Raegen Sorensen had 22 points on the night with 14 of them coming in the first half.

“She’s a good player. It’s hard to stop her…she can do so many different things,” said Carollo. 

The Warhawks were without key defensive player Maggie Trautsch who was sidelined with an ankle injury. Carollo recognized the impact of Trautsch’s absence.

“We have one of our best defenders sitting on the bench with a hurt ankle… Not having Maggie really hurts us,” she said.

Poised to bring themselves back into the game the Warhawks matched the Blue Devils scoring with both teams having 16 points in the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Katie Hildebrant pulled the Warhawks within four points trailing 29-25 with 1:37 seconds left in the second quarter. Stout responded with a 5-0 run to match their lead of nine entering the quarter. After 20 minutes of play the Blue Devils were on top 34-25.

The final half of play had similarities to the final two minutes of the first half. The Warhawks would close in on the Blue Devils lead only to be followed by a string of points for the Stout offense. 

The third quarter was grit and grind for the Warhawks who outscored Stout by six in the period despite being 1-6 from 3-point territory. From being up 18-5 in the first quarter the Blue Devils needed to fend off the Warhawks who could tie the game with a single shot. The Blue Devils led 46-43  heading into the fourth. Ultimately, the third quarter proved to be the Warhawks most efficient period shooting the basketball.

Throughout the game fifth year senior Aleah Grundahl was faced with the possibility of this being her last game suiting up for the Warhawks. But Grundahl knew she had to put her emotions aside and focus on the present moment because despite the teams’ sluggish night shooting, the Warhawks were still in this game. 

“When it’s your fifth year everything means a little bit more, but when you play you can’t think like that. You gotta go play-by-play [and] keep everybody up,” Grundahl said. 

The Blue Devils opened up the fourth on a 10-2 run with three pointers from Amanda Giesen and Sydney Brennan making the score 56-45 in favor of the visiting Blue Devils. A free throw by Kacie Carollo pulled the Warhawks within 5 at about 30 seconds left but a string of free throws sealed the deal for Stout. 

With five seconds left in the game the Warhawks trailed 68-59 and Grundahl subbed out in what could be her final game as a Warhawk.

Grundahl’s impact on the program is large and her accomplishments speak for themselves. Two all-region first teams, 2023 Division III player of the year, and most points in program history display Grundahls dominance for the Warhawks. 

“She’s amazing. She’s broken just about every record there is. She had led us all season long. She’s a phenomenal basketball player and an even better person,” said Carollo, who finished off by saying, “We’re gonna miss her tremendously.”

Despite the loss, Grundahl and the rest of the Warhawks may not have seen the end of their season. The Division III women’s basketball selection show airs on Monday, Feb. 26. Until then, they’ll be left waiting to see if their season has more life left.

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About the Contributors
Matt Ellis, Women's Sports journalist
Elijah Bartels, Photographer

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