Warhawk women aim to finish what they started
WHITEWATER—A top-five preseason ranking.
Projections of a conference title.
An expectation to contend at a national level once again.
It all sounds like a formula that puts an intense amount of pressure on the UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team.
Instead, it’s a situation the Warhawks are embracing as they prepare to open their season Friday at the St. Norbert Tournament in De Pere.
“They want that pressure; they want to be at the top,” Whitewater coach Keri Carollo said. “I think after being in that national championship game and not winning it, that’s given them even more motivation to come back this year stronger.”
The Warhawks posted the best season in program history a year ago, advancing all the way to the Division III title game. They went 26-7 and eventually finished as national runners-up to DePauw University.
And with a core group of senior guards leading the charge in 2013, Whitewater hopes last year was just a sign of things to come.
“We believe even more that we can get back there, just because we’ve been there before,” senior Mary Merg said. “We know what it takes, so it’s good experience for us.”
Merg is the team’s second-leading returning scorer after averaging more than 10 points per game last season. She’ll be joined in the backcourt by Thill, the program’s all-time leader in steals and leading returning scorer at 11.5 ppg.
And Katie Burton (5.6 ppg), who started about half of the team’s games last season, rounds out a triumverate of experienced guards.
With All-American post Cortney Kumerow lost to graduation and Lisa Palmer out for the year due to injury, the Warhawks are transitioning to an offense with just one primary post player.
“It’s kind of weird coming into senior year and having a whole new offense, like, ‘I just got (the old) one,’” Burton said. “But it’s built for the players that are playing, and I think it’s an awesome offense.”
Senior forward Amy Mandrell and sophomore center Emily Jensen may be the top candidates to handle the grunt work down low. Sophomore Erin Schuler is also in the mix, as well as Burton, who can play at a forward position.
“I think it’s kind of a blessing in disguise that we don’t have a post, a go-to, yet,” Carollo said. “Our entire offense is built for (the senior guards), and for them to have the senior year that they want to have.”
They’d like to have a year that matches their junior campaign, and then some.
And the Warhawks are meeting any pressure that comes with that mentality head-on.
“Our goal is just to have fun and play our game, and the rest of it will take care of itself,” Merg said. “This senior class kind of deserved … to have the high ranking, we deserve to be at the top of the WIAC, and we’ve just got to play our game.”
Reilly Stewart, fr., g, Wheaton, Ill.; Sami Ahr, fr., f, Woodstock, Ill.; Kaitlyn Thill, sr., g, Belgium; Abbie Reeves, so. g, Salem; Amy Mandrell, sr., f, Forsyth, Ill.; Katie Burton, sr., g, Crystal Lake, Ill.; Kate Bemis, fr., Mayville; Clare Gloede, so. g, Madison; Michele Molini, fr., g, Mount Prospect, Ill.; Mary Merg, sr., g, Greendale; Morgan Dahlke, sr., f, Portage; Andrea Olsen, fr., g, East Troy; Erin Schuler, so., f, Kiel; Dani Fugate, fr., f, Janesville; Kelynn Sporer, jr., f, Chilton; Mandy Frey, fr., g, South Milwaukee; Sarah Beese, sr., f, Wausau; Caity Coleman, fr., g, Wausau; Emily Jensen, so., c, Wauwatosa; Kirsten Hammer, so., g, West Bend; Chelsea Gieseke, sr., f, Roselle, Ill.
UW-WHITEWATER SCHEDULE (Home games in bold)
15—Saint Mary’s College (Ind.) at De Pere, 5 p.m.; 16—Northland or St. Norbert, at De Pere, TBD; 19—University of Chicago, 6 p.m.; 20—Dubuque (JV), 7 p.m.; 23—Edgewood College, 2 p.m.; 27. Illinois Wesleyan, 6 p.m.; 30—Wheaton College, 6 p.m.
4—Elmhurst (JV), 4:30 p.m.; 7—UW-Stout, 3 p.m.; 11—UW-Stevens Point, 7 p.m.; 29—Carthage College, at Las Vegas, 2 p.m.; 30—Ohio Northern, at Las Vegas, 4 p.m.
4—UW-River Falls, 3 p.m.; 7—UW-Rock County (JV), 7 p.m.; 8—UW-Oshkosh, 7 p.m.; 9—Loras (JV), 7 p.m.; 11—UW-Eau Claire, 7 p.m.; 13—Loras (JV), 5:30 p.m.; 15—UW-Platteville, 7 p.m.; 18—UW-Superior (JV), 3 p.m.; 22—UW-La Crosse, 7 p.m.; 25—UW-River Falls, 3 p.m.; 29—UW-Platteville, 7 p.m.
1—UW-Stout, 3 p.m.; 5—UW-Stevens Point, 7 p.m.; 8—UW-Superior, Noon/3 p.m.; 12—UW-La Crosse, 7 p.m.; 15—UW-Oshkosh, 7 p.m.; 22—UW-Eau Claire, 3 p.m.