Women’s hoops looks to improve upon last years second place finish

    After disappointing end in WIAC tournament last season, Blugolds look to rebound

    More stories from Trent Tetzlaff

    Women’s hoops looks to improve upon last years second place finish

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    After the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team turned a 7-18 campaign two years ago into a run to the semifinals of the WIAC tournament with a 16-10 record last season, many would be content.

    However, this was not Blugold women’s basketball head coach Tonja Englund’s mindset.

    Englund said the team needs to use the 29-point WIAC semifinal loss last season to UW-Oshkosh after a second-place conference finish to their advantage.

    “We had it in our hands last January when we were in first, and played our best basketball probably a bit too early,” she said. “It’s something our team learned a lot from, and can improve off of especially with how the season ended.”

    Although improvement from their 2014-15 campaign is something Englund said she has stressed, it won’t be easy as she said last year’s 20th ranked strength of schedule out of over 400 teams will get even tougher.

    Even though Englund said hopes are high coming into the season, the team must replace three seniors. Kristin Sahr, Courtney Lewis and Rachel Egdorf all played an important role last season, she said.

    In order to replace the lost fire power, the Blugolds will look to two-time First Team All-WIAC guard Teenie Lichtfuss as a senior to step up. Lichtfuss, who has averaged just over 11 points per game in her Blugold career, will look to provide more scoring in her final season.

    Englund said that she will be moving Lichtfuss off the ball from her point guard position to the two-guard, in order for her to get more scoring opportunities.

    “Teenie is a tough matchup in that she can shoot it deep and she can get to the rim,” she said. “She has bit more of a finesse game and loves to play in the open court, so we’re hoping moving her off the ball will open up her scoring even more.”

    Although teams once again will have to match up with Lichtfuss at the guard position, the Blugolds will also bring one of the tallest lineups to the court in the WIAC with the addition of a 6-foot-4 transfer Erin O’ Toole, Englund said.

    O’ Toole, who comes to Eau Claire from NCAA Division I University of North Dakota, is an immediate boost when it comes to post play for the Blugolds, Englund said.

    “The strength of our roster is in the experience of our guard play and the height on the inside,” she said. “That’s what we want to go after this year, we don’t feel like anybody, especially in our league has that type of size, so we really want to establish ourselves with post play.”

    However, not only will the post play be strong point for the Blugolds, but Englund said it will also open up more scoring for the guards, most importantly Lichtfuss.

    Englund said Lichtfuss, a player who is hard to match up with on the perimeter, will get more open looks with perimeter defenders crashing down low to help defend the post players.

    The combination of O’Toole’s height and Lichtfuss’ experienced perimeter play will be surrounded with a solid rotation of post players such as junior Ellen Blacklock, who led the conference in blocks last season, and senior Madison Johnson who returns from last year’s rotation, Englund said.

    Perimeter wise, Englund said the loss of Lewis will be tough, but a spot where she sees junior Arien Becker filling in well with her strong outside shooting.

    Sophomore Jenni LaCroix is another player that will need to fill big minutes, Englund said, as she will move into the point guard position with Lichtfuss moving to the wing.

    “The perimeter look is going to be a way different one for us this year,” she said. “Just allowing Teenie to really be a go-to type of scorer.”

    The Blugolds will open play at 7 p.m. next Wednesday as they travel to play Winona State University (Minn.) to open their season.