Women’s Basketball ends season in NCAA tournament after falling to Millikin

UW-Eau Claire Women’s Basketball finished their season at their first NCAA tournament game since 2012, ending the game with 59-56

Allison Hinrichs

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Photo by Bill Hoepner

UW-Eau Claire faces off against Millikin University

After kicking off the NCAA Division III Tournament with a three-point lead against Millikin University, the UW-Eau Claire Women’s Basketball team fell short in the fourth quarter with a 59-56 loss, eliminating them from the tournament.

The tournament was hosted in UW-Eau Claire’s Zorn Arena the weekend of March 4-5 with a spirited crowd of Blugold supporting the team. 

The elimination marks an end to one of UW-Eau Claire’s most successful seasons, from winning the WIAC Championship earlier in the season to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. 

Tyra Boettcher, a fourth-year from Menomonie WI, was astounded by the energy of the crowd.

“One word to sum it up is electrifying,” said Boettcher. “You could feel the floor shaking.”

This season’s journey to the NCAA championship was earned after vanquishing UW-River Falls 61-54 in the quarterfinal and going on to win the semifinal against UW-Stout 87-68 in the WIAC tournament. The Blugolds won their title of champion of the tournament after dominating UW-Whitewater 77-63 in the title game.

The first round of the NCAA tournament began with the Blugolds’ triumph against Minnesota’s North Central University on Friday.

The first quarter began with a lead from North Central University and ended with Jade Ganski, a second-year from Rothschild, Wis., scoring 13 points, leading the charge to victory.

The second quarter resulted in a 12-12 standstill before the UW-Eau Claire team fell behind with North Central outscoring UW-Eau Claire before the fourth quarter.

UW-Eau Claire fought to overpower their opponents in the fourth and final quarter with the combined efforts of Courtney Crouch, a third-year from White Bear Lake, MN, and Kylie Mogen, a second-year from Menomonie, Wis., in scoring 13 of the 19 total points for UW-Eau Claire.

The game was determined in the last 10 minutes of the game with Crouch posting nine of her 14 total points and achieving a career-high of 18 rebounds in the final frame, securing a spot for the Blugolds in the second round of the tournament.

The second round occurred the next day in a match against Millikin University.

In the first quarter of the second round, UW-Eau Claire battled against Millikin earning a lead of 18-15. Millikin entered the second quarter with a shift in momentum and scored 22 points, placing them in the lead.

The third quarter began with a rallying cry from the packed stadium as Blugold fans called for revenge. The UW-Eau Claire answered by outscoring Milikin 15-8.

The UW-Eau Claire Women’s Basketball head coach, Tonja Englund, described the energy of the fans and the atmosphere in Zorn Arena during the tournament.

“It’s almost kind of overwhelming to think about the atmosphere and the fans these last few days,” said Englund. “I know we are going to look back and be so thankful that we brought playoff basketball back to Zorn.”

The fourth quarter started off as anyone’s game as Granski evened out the scoreboard with a three-pointer tie of 45-45. The game remained close with Millikin leading slightly up until the last 3 seconds of the final quarter when UW-Eau Claire was intercepted by Millikin’s defense, defeating the Blugolds. 

The defeat follows a season with an overall score of 22-8. Even with the season ending in a loss, Englund said she is proud of the 2021-2022 team.

“There wasn’t a day that I didn’t look forward to coming to the gym with this group,” said Englund. “You win with people, you win with great people and culture and chemistry and we had that all year.”

Hinrichs can be reached at [email protected].