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The UW-Whitewater Women’s Basketball team is one step away from their first National Championship in program history. The Warhawks used a 12-5 run in the fourth quarter of a 55-51 win over Amherst College to advance to Saturday’s National Championship game.
“I am really proud of our team as we just hung in there and finally hit a three down the stretch,” UW-Whitewater head coach Keri Carollo said. “It says a lot about this team game-after-game, they are just extremely resilient. They never think they are going to lose and I am super proud of them.”
Both teams battled it out in the first quarter as the game was tied at five different times in the period. Amherst grabbed a four-point lead twice before the Warhawks tied it at 15 on a jumper by sophomore Maggie Trautsch before Amherst retook a 17-15 lead at the quarter break.
The Warhawks used a 6-0 run early in the second quarter capped off by a Rebekah Schumacher three-pointer to grab the game’s biggest lead at 23-18. Amherst’s Dani Valdez scored four of the Mammoths’ next seven points to tie the game at 25 before a fastbreak jumper from Trautsch gave the Warhawks a 27-25 lead at the half.
After a basket from Aleah Grundahl gave the Warhawks an early four-point lead in the third quarter, Courtney Resch used two three-pointers to help give Amherst a 34-33 lead before five points from Kacie Carollo gave the Warhawks the lead right back.
After Carollo gave the Warhawks a 39-36 lead, Amherst ended the third quarter on an 8-2 run to grab a 44-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Trautsch hit another big shot for the Warhawks as the sophomore hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 46 with 6:57 to go in the game.
“We are pretty streaky at times, and that is sometimes the way it goes,” Coach Carollo said of the shots by Schumacher and Trautsch. “It is a lot of the reason why we are here. They just don’t ever think they are going to miss.”
The Warhawks managed to get Amherst’s best player Dani Valdez in foul trouble in the second half as Valdez fouled out with 5:42 to go in the ball game. After Valdez fouled out, the Warhawks used a 9-5 run including a three-pointer from Yssa Sto. Domingo to take a 53-51 lead before Carollo sealed the game up at the line for the win.
“They are a great shot-blocking team and do a great job around the rim and protecting the basket,” Coach Carollo said of getting Valdez to foul out. “Aleah (Grundahl) did a great job as she got them on the move and got them in the air. I wasn’t really thinking of fouling someone out, but I was concerned with getting to the free-throw line more than they did. Really that was our focus around the paint.”
Coach Carollo was confident in her daughter to hit the game-sealing free throws as she feels like her daughter has never disappointed her. The coach said whether it is her daughter or just one of her other players that she wants them to rise in those moments.
“For her to be my daughter, it just makes it crazy and insanely special,” Coach Carollo said of her daughter making the game-sealing free throws. “It is an incredible moment in our lives. Not only as a basketball team, but as a family that we will never forget.”
UW-Whitewater had plenty of support in the National Semifinal game with their crowd. It ranged from the player’s families to former players such as Olivia Freckman to even members of their women’s soccer program.
“It just made us feel at home and not worry about the opposing fans,” freshman Kacie Carollo said. “I felt at home and we know our community supports especially at home too.”
Grundahl led the way for the Warhawks with 18 points, while Carollo had 11 and Trautsch had 10. Senior Johanna Taylor led the Warhawks on the boards with 14 rebounds as the Warhawks shot 30 percent from the field in the win and made 14 of their 16 free throws in the win.
Valdez led the way for Amherst with 14 points, while AnLing Vera had 12 for the Mammoths. Jade DuVal led Amherst in rebounding with 10 as Amherst only made 20 shots in the game and shot 4-for-18 from the perimeter in the loss.
In the other National Semifinal, Hope College advanced with a 57-52 win over Trine with Kennedy Schoonveld leading the way with 15 points, while Sydney Muller and Ella McKinney both were in double figures for the Lady Dutch.
UW-Whitewater and Hope College will face off on Saturday in the National Championship game from the Cooper Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh, Pa. The game will be the third postseason matchup between both teams and will be the Warhawks’ second appearance in the National Championship game with the first being in 2013 against DePauw.