Xtra Points

Local sports talk with the Gazette sports staff

Xtra Points: UW-Whitewater makes second straight Final Four

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Eric Schmoldt
March 20, 2014

The UW-Whitewater women's basketball team returns to the Final Four on Friday night for the second year in a row.

The Warhawks were the national runners-up a year ago, but avenged that loss by winning at DePauw in the Elite Eight.

They've got somewhat of a home-court advantage on their side, playing this weekend's games at UW-Stevens Point. They're also the only team in the Final Four that has been there before.

“It’s been crazy," senior guard Kaitlyn Thill said. "I never thought we’d be back here again, even though it was a big goal of ours. We lost a lot of players, but people stepped up and we’re back. The season has gone fast, and it’s just been a fun journey.”

Thill told me on Tuesday that the team will likely try to stick to the routine they always use, and the one that got them to this point last year.

“Our team is pretty superstitious, so we’ll do the same thing during practice that we did last year—same shootaround, same rituals and everything," Thill said. "We’re definitely superstitious when it comes down to the smallest things.”

Head coach Keri Carollo broke down Whitman, Whitewater's national semifinal opponent that has just one loss this season.

“They’re very much like us in that they push tempo and press a little bit," she said. "They’ve got a really good point guard who scores a lot of their points and then they have a 4 who is a lot like (our) Amy Mandrell. She’s not really a back-to-the-basket type of player, but they’re well-balanced. … One thing they probably don’t have that we have is a good post player. Their post is good—she’s very agile and physical—but she’s not really their go-to as far as scoring.”

Thill said playing at Point should give the Warhawks a slight advantage, particularly because fans can make a short trip, where the other teams are flying in from the coasts.

“It’s nice to be close to home after the last two weekends," Carollo said. "I think the girls are excited about that, but honestly, with this group, I really don’t think they care. … They’re just excited to play and have that next opportunity. This group really wants it. They want to win it.”

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