UWSP women’s basketball team eyes return to postseason
After a two-year hiatus, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens
Point (UWSP) women’s basketball team will look to make a return to the NCAA
Division III Tournament this season.
The Pointers brought back three starters from last year’s
team that finished 14-13, and the team missed the NCAA Tournament for the
second year in a row after six consecutive appearances.
So far, UWSP has knocked off a pair of ranked teams on its
way to a 5-2 start this season, and it will be home to host Saint Mary’s (Minn.) (7-0) at the Berg
Saturday, Dec. 19.
“It’s exciting,” said UWSP women’s basketball head coach
Shirley Egner of this season. “The last two years have been a struggle for us,
being able to put some points on the board and being a unified team, and these
kids have worked hard.
“They’re getting it, they’re making progress; we’ve played a
brutal schedule and we haven’t folded at crunch time,” she said. “We haven’t
gone undefeated, but we’ve learned from past mistakes, and for me that’s really
exciting, that we continue to build and continue to get better.”
Following a six-year run that included three Wisconsin
Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Regular Season Titles, six WIAC
Tournament Titles, six trips to the NCAA Tournament, two Sweet 16 finishes and
one Elite Eight appearance, the Pointers went 17-10 in 2013-14 and 14-13 last
year to tie for fourth in the WIAC at 8-8.
UWSP lost First Team All-WIAC post player Kaitlyn Jacobs
(9.4 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) and guard Taylor Atkinson (two points per
game) from last season’s starting lineup, as well as reserves Jamie Destache
(4.3 points) and Eleni Seitz (2.1 points), but brought back seven of their top
nine scorers from a year ago.
The Pointers are led by the return of First Team All-WIAC
5-6 junior guard Lauren Anklam (8.6 points, 3.9 assists per game this season),
while 5-10 senior post player Allie Miceli (10.9 points, 9.7 rebounds) moved
into the starting lineup along with 6-0 junior guard Autumn Hennes (11.7 points,
4.3 rebounds), who missed last season due to an injury.
“Lauren’s done an outstanding job distributing the ball,
controlling tempo and being a great floor leader out there,” said Egner.
“Allie’s really having a bust-out year so far and has done a great job leading.
“And then you throw in Autumn, who hasn’t shot the ball well
but she’s done some other things for us, and just having her back on the floor
gives us that stability of having those three,” she said.
Senior 6-2 post player Joann Wolfenberg (4.4 points, 4.3
rebounds) is also back as a starter while 5-7 sophomore guard Lexi Roland (5
points) recently joined the starting lineup, with 5-9 junior guard and
returning starter Taylor Douglas (3 points, 3 rebounds), 5-7 sophomore guard
Mickey Roland (5.7 points), 5-9 junior guard Sarah Gamillo (5.7 points) and 6-1
freshman post Erin Crownover (4 points) also seeing regular minutes off the
“Joann’s getting better, she had a slow start, and I think
we’re finally putting the pieces back together,” said Egner. “Taylor and Sarah
as juniors are doing a really nice job, and so are the Roland twins.
“We inserted Lexi into our starting lineup just to give us
another scorer and ballhandler out there on the floor, but those top eight,
nine kids are really gelling and really doing a great job,” she said.
Also fighting for playing time for UWSP this season are 6-1
sophomore post Taylor Barrett, 5-11 freshman post Katy Heine, 6-0 freshman post
Payton Mix, 6-2 freshman post Olivia Pawlak, 5-4 freshman guard Michelle Kienow
and 5-5 freshman guard Caitlin Broberg.
“It’s unfortunate for our incoming freshmen, because our
schedule’s been so difficult, to get them quality game minutes without setting
them up to fail,” said Egner. “You always want to get those freshmen an
opportunity where they can have some success in games, because the practice
isn’t anything like being in the game and having that anxiety and those nerves
and that adrenaline rush.
“But everybody’s working hard, and we’re making progress,
and that’s good,” she said.
The Pointers opened the season with a 92-45 win over
Finlandia (Mich.) Nov. 14 and then went on the road for the Chicago/Wash U
Classic in Chicago, where they won 61-57 over seventh-ranked Washington
University (Mo.) (8-1) Nov. 20, before they lost 63-40 to the University of Chicago
(5-2) the next night.
“We had a great road win, competed really hard against Wash
U, and then our first opportunity to play back-to-back, and we just lay an
egg,” said Egner. “We were just awful against Chicago, and you can’t have that,
you can’t work so hard one night and then not show up the next, because having
back-to-back games helps us for the NCAA Tournament, and that’s really what we
wanted to use that for.”
UWSP followed with a win over Lakeland (68-59) before it
dropped a 51-48 decision at home to 10th-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) Nov. 29, but
went on the road and won 63-60 at then-23rd-ranked Carthage Dec. 5 and 68-50 at
Illinois Wesleyan Saturday, Dec. 12, to improve to 5-2.
“We played a very, very good St. Thomas team who went 30-1
last year and lost in the Elite Eight to (eventual National Champion) Thomas
More,” said Egner. “We played them to a one-possession game, but again, we
didn’t make free throws, we didn’t do some things execution-wise that we needed
“We fought hard, and we competed, and we showed really good
things out there on the floor, but there were a couple of areas that we needed
to shore up,” she said. “And I think we did that in the win at Carthage and in
the win at Illinois Wesleyan, which was big for us.”
The Pointers will be at home Saturday at 7 p.m. to take on
Saint Mary’s (7-0), before they head to JustAgame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells
Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 for a pair of games against 25th-ranked Luther (Iowa)
(8-1), which is guided by former Pointer All-American and all-time leading
scorer Amanda (Nechuta) Bailey in her fifth season as the head coach, and
Edgewood (2-6) the following afternoon.
UWSP will then hit the road for its third game in four days
when it plays at St. Norbert (5-3) Jan. 2, before opening conference play at
home against UW-Eau Claire (3-5) Wednesday, Jan. 6.
With last season’s WIAC Champion UW-Superior now in the
Upper Midwest Athletic Conference starting this season, fifth-ranked UW-Oshkosh
(8-0 this season) was picked in the preseason to win the WIAC by the league
coaches and sports information directors, followed by 12th-ranked UW-Whitewater
(7-0), Eau Claire, UWSP, UW-River Falls (7-1), UW-Stout (3-4) and
“As long as we continue to improve and continue to grow,
we’re going to be in the mix,” said Egner, who is seven wins away from becoming
the 27th women’s basketball head coach in Division III history to record 500
career victories. “But Oshkosh and Whitewater are the two teams to beat,
they’re two Top 15 teams in the country and they’re undefeated, and so that’s
who’s got the bulls-eyes.
“And I don’t mind them having the bulls-eyes and not us,
because we’re still learning,” she said. “We’ve got two seniors in Miceli and
Wolfenberg, and this is the first year Allie is starting and logging some significant
minutes, so we’re still a young basketball team. We don’t have that experience
out there, but I love the direction that our program’s taking right now, and
the work ethic that our kids are showing.”
This season, Egner said that the Pointers’ goals are the
same as they are every year: to win the WIAC Regular Season Championship, the
WIAC Tournament Championship and reach the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“We haven’t been there for two years, and we’re working hard
to get ourselves back into that NCAA Tournament, that’s what it’s all about,”
said Egner, who guided UWSP to the 2002 NCAA Division III National Title.
“Because when you get in there, anything can happen. You’ve just got to win
six, and that’s it.
“And I think anybody in our league, when they get in the
NCAA Tournament, has an opportunity to win a National Championship, just
because of the competition that we face night-in and night-out among each
other,” she said. “But our goals never change, and I hope when I’m long gone
they never change. That should always be what we’re striving to reach.”