The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Q&A: Tonja Englund

    With Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play kicking into gear, staff writer Kris Kotlarik talked with women’s basketball coach Tonja Englund about her thoughts on the season so far.


    Kris Kotlarik: The team is 4-2 (as of last week) right now; how would you rate the team’s performance so far?

    Tonja Englund: I think that we’ve played very well in spurts, but a little inconsistent, yet, and that’s to be expected early on in the season. But there have been some really bright spots, and our two losses were against Illinois-Wesleyan, who is nationally ranked, and Minnesota-Mankato, who is a Div. II team. So, even though I don’t like the fact that there were losses, there was a lot of really good things that came from those games. They were close games. We have some lapses and some key moments that I think we can clean up before we get into conference play.

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    KK: A lot of the starters are returning from last year, but with Hannah Mesick gone, it’s kind of a different look to the team, isn’t it?

    TE: It is, and Hannah was a great player. We really leaned hard on her at times last year, and she had triple coverage. So one of the things we’ve really tried to do this year is make it a more balanced attack. If you look at a lot of the box scores, we’ve had different leading scorers on many of the nights. We miss Hannah, but while Hannah was doing a lot of that work last year, I think that our younger players got great experience and are now seniors, and that experience has paid off for us early.

    KK: Who are the top bench players right now?

    TE: Well, I think the bench and starters has been different on any given night. During the nonconference schedule, what we’ve really tried to do is to play great opponents, but also for the teams that we’re playing to give us a lot of challenges and looks. Laura Olson has come off the bench, and she was a starter last year, and has hit two key shots to win games for us. So she’s done a really nice job off the bench for us as a senior.” (Senior) Jess Freagon has been in the starting lineup and has also come in off the bench, and really gives us a lot of athleticism and can play inside and out. I still think a lot of those roles are to be determined; we still are working with an 11-to-12 person rotation where people still have those opportunities where they can be a starter, or they can be a key person off the bench.

    KK: How would you describe your style of play personally?

    TE: Each year, I think we, as a coaching staff, play to the strengths of our team. This year, in particular, we have two different looks. We are really fortunate to have a 6’5’’ player in our starting  lineup, so we’ve had a lot of success the last couple of years playing some 2-3 zone and allowing Ellen (Plendl, a senior) to shot block on the inside. But last year, at times, we had to go to that so often that we became a little bit too predictable at the end of the season, and so this year, we have the ability to go “big” and to play that zone look, but we also have the ability to go “small” and play all guards, and to play a quicker lineup.

    KK: Do you have any other thoughts about how the season has started out so far?

    TE: Absolutely, I think we have outstanding senior leadership. Our five seniors; we’re really fortunate. It’s unique to have five seniors in any level of basketball, and each brings something really special to the team. Sarah Bingea is also a captain as a junior, which is unique. She’s done a really nice job working with the seniors to help our younger players transition. We have a large squad this year, and it’s a nice mix of returners and freshmen. The group has great chemistry, and I’ve been pleased with how the season has started. We’ve played really tough competition, and our schedule has given us a lot of different looks and challenges, and our hope that’s going to pay off at the end of the season.

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