UPDATED: The following article has been updated to include game times for the next round of the tournament.
Aleah Grundahl posted two double-digit performances as the UW-Whitewater Warhawks Women’s Basketball team advanced to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2014. Grundahl scored 15 against Ripon College in the first round and scored 18 against Illinois Wesleyan in the Warhawks’ first two NCAA tournament games this weekend.
“She cares about what she can do to help her team win,” head coach Keri Carollo said of Grundahl’s performance this weekend. “That is why our team is so successful.”
Warhawks use big second quarter to push past Ripon
In the March 4 first-round game against Ripon, the Warhawks shot 4-for-14 as both teams were tied after the first quarter. Freshman Kacie Carollo hit back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter to help the Warhawks get a 23-8 advantage as they went into the locker room with a 31-16 lead.
“I felt like we were nervous and trying to force shots or passes that weren’t there,” Coach Carollo said of the second-quarter success. “It was kind of settling in, relaxing and letting the game come to them. Once we did that, we could see what we were capable of doing.”
Grundahl and fellow post player Johanna Taylor provided a boost for the Warhawks in the second half as both had eight points to help the Warhawks pull away. Carollo added another six points in the second half as the Warhawks held the Red Hawks under double digits for three of the four quarters in the 58-34 win.
Against Ripon, Grundahl and Carollo both led the Warhawks with 15 points, while Taylor had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Abby Belschner was also a force in the post as the junior had six blocks in the game.
“Just great defensively overall, she did a nice job of moving her feet. We knew that they had some pretty athletic forwards that were going to work to take us off the dribble in that position,” Carollo said of Belschner’s six blocks. “Just her anticipation and her ability to discipline her body to not jump is so hard to do. She was fantastic.”
Warhawks post play advances team to Sweet Sixteen
In Saturday’s second-round game against Illinois Wesleyan, UW-Whitewater jumped out to a 21-14 lead in the first half with 14 combined points coming from Warhawks post players in Grundahl, Taylor and Belschner. Carollo and guard Yssa Sto. Domingo knocked down shots from the perimeter in the second quarter to help build the lead to 28-18 before the Titans cut the lead to 37-32 at the half.
“It was super important,” Coach Carollo said of getting the three-point game going in the second quarter. “Once you hit one and see your teammate hit one, you get confident because hitting that first three is so important. When you get in a tournament situation, you want to let them go because those are the moments that you have to make plays.”
Grundahl provided a scoring punch for the Warhawks as she scored 14 of her points in the second half. Rebekah Schumacher escaped her cold start from three-point range by adding two makes in the half, while Carollo added a three early in the fourth quarter of the 72-54 win.
In addition to Grundahl’s 18 points, Sto. Domingo was the other Warhawk in double figures with 10, while Johanna Taylor led on the boards with 12 rebounds. The Warhawks were dominant in the post in the game with 29 rebounds, 18 second-chance points, and 36 points in the paint in the win.
“We knew that could be where we could really take advantage of Illinois Wesleyan by making sure we got it in the post and getting second and third shots,” Carollo said. “Effort and 50-50 balls were a big point in emphasis because they are so aggressive around the rim. We knew we had to have the mentality to fight for all those opportunities.”
Final Four to go through Whitewater
Next weekend, the Warhawks will host the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament at the Kachel Gym. Action will start on March 11 with conference rival UW-Oshkosh taking on Baldwin-Wallace at 5 p.m. while the Warhawks take on Smith College at 7:30 p.m.
The winners of Friday’s games will play on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the right to go to the Final Four, which will be held in Pittsburgh the next weekend.