Title within Warhawks women’s basketball team’s grasp
WHITEWATER The question started popping up about 11 months ago.
“We’d be like, ‘Do you want to win a national championship?’” UW-Whitewater senior Cortney Kumerow said. “We’d say that to each other and always be like, ‘Yeah!’”
Those conversations, prompted by the men’s program winning the Division III national championship last season, still haven’t ended for the Warhawks women’s basketball team.
With a 65-60 victory over Hope College on Saturday night, UW-Whitewater clinched a spot in the NCAA’s Division III Final Four for the second time in program history. The feat was still sinking in for many of the players when they practiced at Kachel Gym on Monday.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Warhawks junior Mary Merg said. “I think it’ll sink in once we get there and see the gym. We’ll kind of know we have to get down to business.”
Whitewater (26-5) entered the tournament ranked No. 22 in the nation and will face No. 6 Amherst College (30-1) at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. No. 15 Williams College (26-5) takes on No. 1 DePauw (32-0) in the other semifinal at 6:30. All games will be played at DeVos Fieldhouse at Hope in Holland, Mich.
It’s the same site that hosted when the Warhawks made their Final Four run in 2008, finishing third.
“I remember the gym, and I remember my sister having to guard the best player,” said Warhawks junior Kaitlyn Thill, whose sister Trisha played on the 2008 squad.
Other than some family ties, coach Keri Carollo—in her 11th season—draws few comparisons between the two Final Four teams.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the teams I’ve coached in the past, because I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful people,” Carollo said. “These guys really believed that they could do this and they believe in each other. They have a special chemistry that I’ve never been a part of.”
While the group and its path to the Final Four may be a bit different than five years ago, Carollo said she’ll take lessons from that run and use them this week.
“The hardest part about making a run like this is that it’s easy to get distracted and really not remember why you’re there,” she said. “That was something with our ’08 team, that we got distracted, and we really didn’t come in as focused as I would’ve liked to. This group seems to figure out a way to get that done.
“It’s going to be important for us to stay grounded.”
That hasn’t been a problem for a deep team that routinely plays 10 players double-digit minutes and has had seven different players finish as the top scorer in at least one game.
After all, for the better part of a year, many of the conversations have simply surrounded one goal.
“After the guys won last year—we’re good friends with a lot of them—and after they won, all throughout the summer we’d be working out and talking about it,” Kumerow said. “It’s crazy that it’s happening. This is it. We’ve been saying it, and I don’t know if we actually believed we’d get this far until now.”