Sophomore transfer student is conference’s leading scorer in first Blugold season

    After transferring from North Dakota, Erin O’Toole has come into her own at UW-Eau Claire.

    More stories from Trent Tetzlaff


    As the seasons changed and the crisp autumn air left Eau Claire in exchange for freezing temperatures, sophomore Erin O’Toole could be found gearing up for her debut in a UW-Eau Claire uniform inside Zorn Arena.

    O’Toole wasn’t sure what to expect at the NCAA Division III level after transferring from a NCAA I program at the University of North Dakota, but prepared for the 2015-2016 season like any other.

    However, little did she know she would become as big of a threat as she has in such a short amount of time in the WIAC conference.

    The 6-foot-4 forward leads the conference in scoring, averaging 19.5 points per game while grabbing over 8 rebounds a contest.

    Despite her play so far this season, O’Toole said it has been a team effort rather than an individual effort.

    “All year long it has been a whole team kind of thing, we have great passers and great scorers around me,” O’Toole said. “It’s definitely a nice role to have being a scorer for us, but this season it has really just been a team effort all around.”

    O’Toole, who grew up in Plymouth, Minn. with five sisters, said getting away from home and going to North Dakota her freshman year was a great learning experience for her. However, she just didn’t feel right in the situation.

    She said she wasn’t close enough to home, wasn’t connected enough with her family and the NCAA I basketball program wasn’t right for her.

    After her decision to transfer from North Dakota, O’Toole was introduced to head coach Tonja Englund, who had recruited her younger sister previously.

    O’Toole said, after meeting with Englund and talking about the program and the university, she knew immediately it would be a good fit for her.

    “I really just liked the feel of everything, it has a division I feel but it just accommodates more to your academics,” she said. “You can actually put time into your major, feel good about your studies and get good grades.”

    O’Toole said during her time in Eau Claire she has become a more confident player on the court, especially after losing a lot of the confidence she once had in the program at North Dakota.

    “At the division one level it was more of a business than a sport,” she said. “And now it’s more about myself and my teammates and it has more of an empowerment vibe, and I really like that.”

    Englund said she had known the O’Toole family for a while and had the opportunity to watch O’Toole play for Hopkins High School on a few state tournament teams in Minnesota. So when she got the call from her mother about the transfer, she knew right away that she would be a great fit at Eau Claire.

    Along with being a great fit academically, Englund said as a player, O’Toole possesses great strength, touch and the ability to make plays off the dribble. However, she said one thing many people look past is her ability to play great defense.

    “Erin is a very good defensive player, she brings a lot of energy on that end of the floor and doesn’t just focus on her offensive game,” she said. “She’s up in the top of the league for defensive rebounding and is just really unselfish defensively.”

    Englund said although O’Toole has been a strong presence for the Blugolds all season, she knows the future is bright for the program as she is only a sophomore and can still get better.

    “It’s pretty exciting to think that she only is a sophomore, a lot of times we are almost expecting out of her a senior performance, but we shouldn’t be,” she said. “Teams in the league are trying to figure out ways to stop her as a sophomore and to me that is exciting.”