Roughly 70 miles separate the campuses of Concordia University Wisconsin and UW-Whitewater.
On Thursday, their women’s basketball teams will play roughly 4,000 miles away.
The No. 23-ranked Warhawks are headed to Honolulu, Hawaii, for the “Hoop N Surf Tournament.” It just so happens that their first opponent there is from just down the road. UW-W will also play Spalding (Kentucky) on Friday.
“It’s kind of silly, but I think we’ll both be happy to not be playing in Wisconsin,” UW-W head coach Keri Carollo said. “We’ve only had one road trip thus far, which is abnormal for us, so this trip is coming at a really good time for our team. They’ll be done with finals, which is a relief for them.
“They’ll get a chance to get away, be together and play some basketball.”
Carollo does a longer road trip with her team every other year, and a trek to Hawaii is not new. The Warhawks went there for a tournament put on by the same company in 2006.
“The guy that ran that tournament is still doing it, so we connected again,” Carollo said. “They arranged going to Pearl Harbor, and we’re going to go to a luau. They make it easy with such a large group.”
Along with their luggage, the Warhawks will take along with them a four-game winning streak and a 6-1 record.
Carollo said she is pleasantly surprised by the team’s start to the season, given that the Warhawks lost several starters from a year ago.
“We didn’t have a lot coming back, especially in the post, so we were a little skeptical as to how fast our young players would make the transition to college and jell together as a group,” Carollo said. “But our leadership, with our captains, has just been tremendous. We have such a big freshman class, but they’ve made them feel home and part of the family, and that their contributions are so important.”
Senior guard Becky Raeder has been the Warhawks’ leader both on and off the court.
She is the only player averaging double figures scoring at 14.9 points per game and is shooting 43% from the field.
“Becky has just done a great job off and on the floor. She’s carried us with scoring and being a good leader and keeping us organized and disciplined,” Carollo said.
“Adriana Green is our other captain. She’ll hopefully be back in January, coming back from an ACL, but off the floor she is a great leader for us.”
Newcomer Aleah Grundahl has started all seven games for Whitewater and is averaging 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Abby Belschner comes off the bench and averages 8.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in less than 19 minutes per game. Johanna Taylor is averaging a team-best 7.3 rebounds, and Lake Geneva Badger Courtney Oomens is getting about 13 minutes per game as a sophomore.
“Our young players have stepped up,” Carollo said. “We’re super young from a game experience perspective, but they continue to surprise us every day. They want to learn and absorb everything.”
Carollo acknowledges her team has not played the toughest schedule.
But the Warhawks have a win over No. 22 Illinois Wesleyan, and their lone loss was by one point in overtime to eighth-ranked DePauw.
And after the Hawaii trip, they play in a tournament in Wisconsin Dells that includes a game against top-10 St. Thomas.
“That will be a good test for us right before the start of conference play,” Carollo said.
Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play begins Jan. 4, and both UW-La Crosse and UW-Platteville join Whitewater in the rankings. UW-Oshkosh is receiving votes.
But for now, league play can wait.
Island life beckons.