Sisters, brother have preceded this Warhawk Final Four team's success
WHITEWATER One UW-Whitewater basketball player hopes to duplicate her brother's national championship feat from 2012.
Two of her teammates have joined their sisters in Warhawks' history as part of the only two teams to reach the NCAA Division III Final Four in program history.
And when the final strings were cut from the net at Kachel Gym on Saturday, a wife and husband head and assistant coach and two of their three children handled the scissors.
When the Warhawks don T-shirts bearing the slogan "Forever Teammates, Forever Family" at the Final Four in Holland, Mich., this weekend, in several cases that mantra is quite literal.
"We have actually two (sets of sisters) now—Kaitlyn and Trish (Thill) and Kelly and Sarah Beese—who will both have gone to the Final Four with us," UW-W head coach Keri Carollo said. "Then you've got Mary (Merg), whose her brother went through this last year and she's like, ‘Now it's my turn.'
"Whitewater's a pretty special place."
Trish Thill was at the Williams Center Saturday night to see her younger sister follow in her footsteps. She was part of the Warhawks' only other NCAA Division III Final Four team in 2008, a leader for the team's defense.
Kaitlyn, a junior, is the team's second-leading scorer at nearly 12 points per game. She also leads the way with 106 assists.
"I was there for the Final Four when she went in 2008 and she's definitely coming now," said Kaitlyn, who explained the family-oriented atmosphere played a large role in her decision to attend Whitewater. "My family is a big support system. I just love seeing them at my games."
Kelly Beese was also on the roster in 2008 and her younger sister, Sarah, is part of Whitewater's program this year, playing on the junior varsity team.
"Kaitlyn and Trish have both been exceptional players in our program and they deserve it with their level of talent and how hard they work," Carollo said. "We're hoping that Sarah will play quite a bit for us next year. It's just neat to see the parents enjoying it."
Mary Merg's celebration on Saturday was briefly distracted with a bit of a sour note. Her brother, Alex, and the UW-W men's team had just lost in the second round of the Division III men's tournament.
"It was a bummer because I heard about the men's team losing," she said. "But he's very excited for me and kind of put that aside. I was there for him last year and he's going to be there for me."
Alex Merg and the Warhawk men not only made the Final Four in 2012, but won the national title.
The accomplishment opened the eyes of many of the players on the women's team, but especially those of Mary, a junior who averages 10 points and 1.5 steals per game.
"I think seeing them win it last year just really taught us how extra special it is and how much effort you have to put into it," she said. "If you put everything into it, you can get the most out of it.
"We just have a connection together," she added regarding her brother. "We always have, but it's kind of bonded the women's and men's teams together."
And the Warhawks' March Madness run has provided new memories for the Carollo family.
Keri and Joe—an assistant with the team since 2007—were married in 2001. Their daughter, Kacie, who was born in 2003, cut the final strand on the net Saturday. Sons Matthew, born in 2008, and Tyler, 2010, are getting their first true taste of a Final Four run.
It'll be another weekend for the UW-Whitewater family scrapbook.