Warhawk women’s basketball team saving on travel expenses
Division III tournament
No. 2 Hope (28-1) vs. St. Thomas (24-5), 5 p.m.
No. 12 Simpson (27-2) at No. 20 UW-Whitewater (23-6), 7 p.m.
Tonight’s winners, 7 p.m.
WHITEWATER When the UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team lost back-to-back games at UW-Superior and UW-Oshkosh in mid-January, it cost the Warhawks their national ranking and dropped their record to 12-5.
That week also marked the end of Whitewater’s daunting road stretch. The Warhawks had played just four games at the Kachel Gym at Williams Center up to that point and knew they’d spend most of the rest of the season there.
They’ve left campus for just three games since, and not coincidentally have won 11 of their last 12 games, a mark it takes into tonight’s NCAA Division III tournament Sweet 16 game at home against Simpson.
“We were definitely road-tested early and had our schedule be favorable in that regard,” Warhawks head coach Keri Carollo said. “It definitely, I think, has helped us a lot. As the season progressed, we definitely have jelled and people have stepped up in different roles.”
Whitewater (23-6) is 12-1 at home this season, the lone loss coming in the WIAC tournament title game against UW-Stevens Point.
The Warhawks won a pair of games to open the D-III tournament last week and would host again—playing the winner of No. 2 Hope and St. Thomas—on Saturday if they win tonight.
“It’s huge,” Carollo said. “We have some pretty tough games coming here, so to be able to not have to travel is definitely an advantage.”
It’s a welcome experience, especially, for the Warhawks’ upperclassmen, including leading scorer Cortney Kumerow and Whitewater native Megan Theune, two of the team’s six seniors.
Prior to advancing through this past weekend, they had never experienced playing in the second weekend of the national tournament.
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency, especially having such a large group of seniors,” said Carollo, who guided UW-Whitewater to the Final Four in 2008. “They really wanted to have an opportunity to play a little bit deeper into the tournament.
“I think that they were happy to be able to get past that first game and get a chance to play into the second (weekend), but I think they definitely feel like there’s more to come.”
Simpson is led by senior Kate Nielsen, who is one of 11 finalists for the Jostens Trophy, awarded annually to the top Division III player. She was the Iowa Conference Most Valuable Player and is one of six players in program history with 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds.
“She’s fantastic; she can shoot 3s, she drives, she can rebound, plays great D,” Carollo said. “I think it’s going to be important for us to try to control the tempo of the game and make sure we really don’t let them get hot from 3.
“They’re not a team that’s going to walk the ball up the floor and work their offense. They want to shoot after the first or second pass.”