The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team competed in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship last week.
Blugolds win in quarterfinals against UW-Platteville
The Blugolds faced off against the UW-Platteville Pioneers in the WIAC championship quarterfinals on March 1.
Going into the second quarter, the teams were tied with 18 points each, but the Blugolds managed to take the lead into halftime by scoring 24 points in the quarter, double what Platteville scored.
“It seems like the second quarter is our quarter a lot of times. We really kick it in offensively,” Tonja Englund, UW-Eau Claire’s head coach, said.
The Blugolds didn’t let up in the third and fourth quarters, maintaining their lead, and winning the game 81-56 to move on to the semifinals.
“It’s great that we have so many players that can rise to the occasion and that we’re really well balanced,” Englund said. “I thought that was the biggest key tonight.”
Jade Ganski, a first-year forward, and Jessie Ruden, a second-year point guard, were the game’s high scorers, contributing 18 points each and scoring nearly half of the game’s total points combined.
“When you get a stat sheet as a coach and you see that a freshman and a sophomore have led you in a WIAC tournament game, that’s pretty exciting,” Englund said.
Englund spoke highly of Ganski’s abilities after Monday night’s game, saying she stretches defenses out and is a post player who can hit a deep three.
“She’s a winner,” Englund said.
Blugolds lose in semifinals to UW-Whitewater
After their quarterfinal victory, UW-Eau Claire faced the UW-Whitewater Warhawks in the WIAC semifinals on March 3.
UW-Whitewater came out hot in the first quarter, taking an early 22-13 lead. This meant the Blugolds would have to play catch up in the next quarter.
UW-Eau Claire was unable to take the lead in the second quarter, going into halftime trailing 43-31.
The Blugolds were unable to make a comeback in the second half, and UW-Whitewater won the game 74-62.
The loss ended the team’s season, but after the game, Englund and Katie Essen, a fourth-year forward, expressed their gratitude to have had a season at all.
The team started practicing in October not knowing if they would be allowed to play the season or not amid COVID-19.
It wasn’t until two months later, in December, when the WIAC announced it would allow competition with shortened seasons for conference teams.
“I’m just grateful we got to play because a lot of sports did get cancelled this year,” Essen said. “I’m just grateful that we had the opportunity to get some games in.”
Englund echoed Essen’s sentiment.
“We’ve played some really, really good basketball this year under really tough conditions,” Englund said.
Englund said she’s had great teams and this is one of them, choking up as she described what the team has meant to her this year.
She said they are a special group and it is hard for the season to come to an end because they have been together through such uncertain times.
“Behind the scenes, we’ve been a family, we’ve helped each other through tough times and the two hours we’ve been together every day for practices and for games have been a bit of joy,” Englund said.
Englund said the next season can’t get here soon enough.
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