Women’s hoops shows signs of promise

Team goes 2-1 in first week of the season

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Women’s hoops shows signs of promise

Sophomore guard Abby Midtlien was one of four Blugolds in double figures Saturday against  the Warhawks. - Photo by Anna Mateffy

Sophomore guard Abby Midtlien was one of four Blugolds in double figures Saturday against the Warhawks. - Photo by Anna Mateffy

Photo by Anna Mateffy

Sophomore guard Abby Midtlien was one of four Blugolds in double figures Saturday against the Warhawks. - Photo by Anna Mateffy

Photo by Anna Mateffy

Photo by Anna Mateffy

Sophomore guard Abby Midtlien was one of four Blugolds in double figures Saturday against the Warhawks. - Photo by Anna Mateffy

Story by Nick Erickson, Editor In Chief

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There’s no secret about it. The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball has big expectations coming off a 7-18 year.

The Blugolds took two steps forward and one step back in the road to redemption by winning twice in their annual Tip-Off Tournament before falling to St. Mary’s (Minn.) at home Tuesday night.

Saturday: Eau Claire 61, Coe College (Iowa) 54

Just a season ago, the halftime locker room often was the Blugolds’ biggest enemy.

In the first game of the 2014-15 season, they conquered their demon.

After trailing by one to start the second half, coach Tonja Englund’s squad grabbed the lead at the 19-minute mark and never trailed again to knock off Coe College 61-54 on Saturday night at Zorn Arena.

“Your whole goal (in the first game) is to get a ‘W,’” Englund said. “Last year, that would have been a game that maybe could have potentially gone the other way.”

The Blugolds turned up the pressure in the second half and forced the Kohawks into 10 turnovers and spun that into 10 points in the game’s final 20 minutes.

“It’s just playing solid defense and getting stops,” freshman Jenni Lacroix said. “If you get turnovers, that’s a plus.”

Lacroix started at point guard which allowed for last year’s leading scorer, Teenie Lichtfuss, to switch over to her natural position at the two-spot.

The move paid off as Lichtfuss scored 13 points, with nine of them coming in the second half.

Arien Becker, who missed almost all of last season with an ACL injury, was another fresh face who provided a spark as she shut down Coe’s stretch forwards in the second half. The bigs had given the Blugolds some problems in the first frame.

“(Becker’s) a tough matchup for people,” Englund said. “She really kind of turned the tides there.”

The Blugolds held the Kohawks to just 37.5 percent shooting in the second half, and 0-for-6 from range.

Courtney Lewis led the game with 18 points, including nine from behind the 3-point line.

“We needed that win to start the season,” Lewis, who is one of just three current players who played on the 2012 WIAC title team, said. “Right now we have confidence, and we need to build on that.”

Sunday: Eau Claire 78, Hamline (Minn.) 50

Eau Claire lit it up from downtown as both Lichtfuss and Lacroix rattled home four 3-pointers in a blowout victory. Kristin Sahr added two as well as Englund’s team shot 60 percent from downtown (12 of 20) to surpass its highest point total from all of last season.

Madison Johnson chipped in 12 points while Lewis scored 10 to go along with five rebounds and eight assists. Johnson grabbed 10 rebounds to give her a double-double.

Tuesday: St. Mary’s (Minn.) 71, Eau Claire 72

After holding a 13-point lead early, the Blugolds let up a 15-2 run from the Cardinals and never recovered.

Eau Claire cut the lead to three with under a minute to play, but St. Mary’s sealed the deal from the free-throw line late.

Lichtfuss led the way with 14 points while Johnson scored 13.