Olivia Freckmann and her fellow senior teammates felt like they had two options.
The UW-Whitewater women’s basketball players could continue down the road they were on and be remembered for a rarely seen Warhawks rebuilding year.
Or, they could get serious and attempt to create some good memories.
Thanks in part to an eye-opening players meeting, Freckmann and the Warhawks went for Option B. They’ve won 10 of their past 12 games, and Freckmann posted nine double-doubles in her past 14 games. And it all led UW-W back to the Division III NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in 12 years.
“I realized, being a senior and being on this team for four years, I knew my position and knew it well,” Freckmann said this week as the team prepared to open tournament play Friday night at Washington University in St. Louis. “I just knew that I needed to take my job very seriously if we wanted to win.”
“Either we can keep going down this path of losing,” fellow senior Sarah Schumacher said, “or we’ve got to really work hard to turn it around.”
The outlook was bleak in early January.
At 8-7 overall and with a 1-3 mark to open Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, Whitewater was on the outside looking in at a conference tournament berth, let alone thinking about making the NCAA field.
“The coaches really put it on the captains and the seniors,” Freckmann said. “We met as a team at one of our houses and went through everything that each individual girl thought needed to be changed and what we were doing well.
“That was really eye-opening.”
The only thing more stunning was the victory that set the Warhawks’ turnaround in motion.
A few days after scoring just two second-quarter points in a loss to UW-La Crosse, Whitewater knocked off No. 12-ranked UW-Oshkosh 49-47.
“That game was a big game for us,” said Schumacher, a Whitewater High grad. “It was kind of, OK, if we can come out and play like this against them, what’s stopping us from doing it the rest of the year?”
The Warhawks proceeded to go a month—nine games total—without losing.
Freckmann’s double-double bonanza coincided with the team success.
The 5-foot-11 Milwaukee Pius graduate was averaging 8.7 points and 7.6 rebounds two games into the WIAC slate. Freckmann enters NCAA Tournament play averaging 10.9 and 9.3, respectively.
She had 10 points and 14 rebounds when the Warhawks won their regular-season rematch with La Crosse. She posted 14 and 13 when they swept the regular-season series with Oshkosh. And she scored a season-high 27 points in a victory at Stevens Piont.
“She’s been fantastic. She really has just had a determined mentality,” UW-Whitewater coach Keri Carollo said. “When we need big shots or for her to get a big rebound, she’s just done a tremendous job of wanting the basketball.”
“My confidence just built throughout the season,” Freckmann said. “Rebounding has always been my thing. And I just started finishing better (around the basket).”
Working the ball through their post players, including starters Freckmann and Schumacher, got Whitewater’s offense humming.
“We all recognized and were on the same page,” Schumacher said. “If we could get the ball to run through the post and through ‘Olive,’ our offense, as a whole, would run a lot smoother and a lot more efficiently.”
A loss at Stout to end the regular-season seemingly put a damper on the Warhawks’ postseason hopes. And when they failed to defeat Oshkosh for a third time in the WIAC title game, most of the players believed the season was over.
But Whitewater wound up earning an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, and suddenly the team has a chance to put together another run.
“With how the season went, we have some losses we aren’t the most proud of. But it’s just more motivation to keep playing,” Freckmann said. “I think there’s a lot of people who will say we don’t necessarily belong in the tournament because of our record.
“But we’ve won a lot of really strong games and can continue that through the next two, four, six games. We want to show everyone what we’ve got left in us.”
Freckmann, Emily Schumacher named all-WIAC
Freckmann and Whitewater sophomore point guard Emily Schumacher were named to the all-WIAC women’s basketball team Wednesday.
Eau Claire’s Hallee Hoeppner was named player of the year, and Oshkosh’s Brad Fischer is the coach of the year.
Bailee Collins, a Stevens Point sophomore who graduated from Milton High, earned honorable mention status.
Freckmann was also named to the all-defensive team.