By the time the clock hit zero Saturday night at Zorn Arena, it didn’t just mark the end of a basketball game, but it also meant the end of the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team’s season.
The Blugolds lost to UW-Whitewater 82-57, and the team finished with an overall record of 10-15. Head coach Matt Siverling said he thought his team competed well against the second-ranked Warhawks.
“Whitewater is an extremely good team, and it is difficult to take away all of their options,” Siverling said. “Obviously we would have liked to win the game, but I was happy with the effort.”
Eau Claire will now enter its offseason program, and Siverling said his players understand where they are now as a team and where they ultimately need to get to.
“The work they put into the offseason is going to dictate how well we do next year,” Siverling said.
The Blugolds did not have a single senior on their roster this year, meaning the team is in position to have every player return next season. This includes the team’s leading scorer, sophomore Adam Hjelter who averaged 15.5 points per game.
He said this team is going to be together for a while, and with all the turnaround in college basketball, it is rare to see a team with such an opportunity.
“We understand what we need to do moving forward,” Hjelter said. “We’re a team that is going to be together for the next two to three years, so I think we’re going to be pretty competitive.”
Hjelter said the team saw themselves progress as the season went on. They all came together as a first-year team that didn’t really know each other at the beginning of the season.
“The best part is the maturity that comes with a year of experience, and moving forward the expectations are only going to get higher for us,” he said.
Eau Claire had a difficult time picking up conference wins this season, and Hjelter said losing does one of two things to people.
“Losing either makes a coward out of you, and a lot of people will give up or quit,” he said. “Or losing will light a fire under you, and moving forward, losing has definitely done the latter for us.”
In the offseason, athletic teams tend to focus on bettering themselves by putting time in the weight room, watching film and perfecting their craft, and Hjelter said the Blugolds plan to put emphasis on their time in the weight room.
“In sports nowadays, you need to be in the best shape of your life, especially in this conference,” Hjelter said.
Sophomore Kurtis Moody said this offseason the team needs to keep working, because everything they do now is going to be directly related to the results they will see next year.
“We have a lot of potential and we have the opportunity to do better,” Moody said. “Everyone wants to win and everyone wants to be successful.”
Hjelter said the losses the Blugolds endured will give them the spark they need as they get into their offseason workouts.
“Everyone says they want to win and enjoy winning, but not a lot of people like to prepare to win,” he said.
And Eau Claire is ready to take the next step, he said.