Kari Carollo says there was not one specific “Aha!” moment.
One thing is clear, though:
Her UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team has turned momentum in its favor during the heart of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season.
The Warhawks will carry a five-game winning streak into tonight’s critical rematch against No. 12-ranked UW-Oshkosh at Kachel Gymnasium.
“Collectively, I feel like we’ve done a better job of playing team defense—sitting down being much more disciplined,” Carollo said after a Sunday practice for tonight’s make-up game that was postponed Wednesday. “And then on the offensive end, as well, just being more disciplined and playing within our structure.
“They’ve really bought in to what we’ve been trying to teach them all season.”
Three weeks ago today, the Warhawks were 8-7 overall and 1-3 in WIAC play. They were coming off a home loss to UW-La Crosse in which they scored just two points in the second quarter.
Three days later, they beat nationally ranked Oshkosh, 49-47, and have since strung together five consecutive victories.
“I don’t know if it was specifically that (Oshkosh) game, but once they realized that they could start trusting each other, that was the biggest turnaround,” Carollo said. “The Stout game (a loss), might have been the most pivotal, and we’ve just kind of built from there.”
Whitewater avenged the loss to La Crosse with a 55-53 victory on the road Jan. 26 and is coming off a 13-point home victory Saturday against UW-Eau Claire.
“We’re more confident, and the trust factor is just way higher. They’re really believing in each other,” Carollo. “It’s been fun to see them grow together.”
Carollo said senior forward Olivia Freckmann has led the charge for the Warhawks. She has four straight double-doubles, including scoring 15 points and adding 16 rebounds against Eau Claire.
“She’s done a fantastic job of putting us on her back a few times with just her ability to score around the rim and her athleticism to get big rebounds,” Carollo said. “Off the court, she’s really stepped up as a leader and led the charge in terms of how focused our team needs to be.”
Carollo also pointed out junior Becky Raeder’s perimeter shooting and sophomore Emily Schumacher’s growth at the point guard position as catalysts during the team’s winning streak.
Now the Warhawks have a chance to earn a season sweep of Oshkosh, which has been nationally ranked all season.
A victory tonight would leave both Whitewater and La Crosse a 7-3 in WIAC play and just a game behind Oshkosh, which enters tonight at 8-1.
“It’s really important for us to try and keep them off the boards,” Carollo said. “We’re going to have to rebound really well, contain the dribble, and we’re going to have to keep them off the free-throw line and stay out of foul trouble.
“Us staying out of foul trouble has been a big factor in us being able to keep the right players on the court when we need them.”
Clearly those players have figured things out, and perhaps at just the right time.
Tonight, the Warhawks will get a chance to put themselves right back in the WIAC title picture.