Shorthanded UW-Rock County Rattlers all business on court

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
— There’s the Magnificent Seven, Fab 5, Fearsome Foursome, Three Amigos, and six determined players on the UW-Rock County women’s basketball team.

Sophomores April Wellnitz and Lindsey Oliver and freshmen Melissa Harnack, Danielle Heldt, Chole Mauel and Rachel O’Leary shrug off adversity and get down to the business of playing basketball shorthanded at UW-Rock.

With a dismissive stare, Wisconsin Collegiate Conference opponents send the message, “is that all you got?’’

“They look down on us,” said O’Leary, a Janesville Parker graduate. “It’s like we’re a joke.’’

Oliver thinks Rattlers’ opponents see a lack of resolve at first glance.

“They think that we won’t keep up with them,” said Oliver, who leads the Rattlers in scoring and three-point baskets. “They think we’ll get tired fast, but we usually don’t.’’

The WCC is comprised of teams from the UW’s two-year system, and like UW-Rock, several have roster problems. Last Saturday, UW-Fox Valley’s women’s team forfeited to the Rattlers due to a shortage of players.

Oliver, who played for Mark Marsden at Janesville Craig, and Wellnitz, who was a four-year letter winner for Tina Aasen at Orfordville Parkview, each played for the Rattlers last season shorthanded.

“It was fun,” Oliver said of her freshman season. “Why not keep it going.’’

Wellnitz saw little reason to quit.

“It’s a good time, and it keeps you in shape,” Wellnitz said with a laugh.

So Oliver and her teammates go and go, hitting the road some days at 4 p.m. and returning at midnight.

“You have to take your books,” said Wellnitz, who will attend UW-Whitewater next fall to pursue a degree in secondary education. “You need that time to study on the bus.’’

Besides putting in 90 minutes of practice three and four nights per week, Wellnitz works 20 hours a week, while maintaining 14 credits. Like Wellnitz, other Rattlers hold part-time jobs and are full-time students.

The 90-minute practices include a half-hour of fundamentals followed with work on offense and defense.

“Sometimes we have some of the guys (from the UW-Rock men’s team) stay and help,” said Oliver, who eventually would like to be a marine biologist.

Despite a small group, UW-Rock men’s and women’s coach Scott Lee said practices are spirited.

“Of course, I’m bias,” Lee said. “Without a doubt we are limited to what we can do, but I still get excited about being at practice.’’

As for wins and losses, the women are 6-2 in the WCC. The record is a bit of a surprise, but not totally unexpected at this point.

“I think we’ve done OK this year,” Wellnitz said.

Lee said the women’s team started out as a group of strangers, but the players became good teammates.

“They had to come together,” Lee said. “They had to trust one another and become friends. They didn’t know each other.”

Lee is happy to say the women have blended together.

“They have real quality character,” Lee said. “We are real lucky to have the kind of girls we do.’’

The UW-Rock women’s basketball team is a slam-dunk for quality over quantity.

Last updated: 2:19 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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