UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball takes their first loss of the season

    The Blugolds fell to Loras College on Saturday afternoon

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    UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball fought hard on Saturday against the Duhawks.

    The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team fell short for the first time this season on Saturday against the Iowa Duhawks on the road in a final score of 71-66.

    Standing undefeated before the game, the Blugolds went into warm-ups with a clean slate.

    Head coach Tonja Englund said she knew it was going to be a tough game, so she prepared her team as she always does in practice. However, she said her main objective was to get an early lead in the game.

    “I have a high respect for Loras,” Englund said. “So, I knew it was going to be an intense match. We’ve had slow starts in previous games and found ways to win, but it was our goal to play really well right out of the locker room.”

    The game was off to a rough start as Eau Claire was down 7-4, but this changed when Hallee Hoeppner, a sophomore guard, swished two consecutive three-pointers with 3:07 left in the first quarter, making the score 15-12. Eau Claire has a percentage of 33.8 from the field this season.

    Hoeppner said she set a goal before the game to be more aggressive and to attack the basket offensively.

    “Going into the game I knew we’d need to step up,” Hoeppner said. “I had been struggling offensively for a few games. So, it was important to me to get going early so I had confidence.”

    With 7:37 remaining in the first half, the Duhawks cut the lead to six.

    Closing in on the end of the half, the Blugolds had a lead of 10 points, thanks to Anna Graaskamp, a sophomore forward and Kaylee Hanley, a senior forward.

    At half-time Eau Claire was up by five with a score of 38-33. During the first half, the Blugolds shot 51.6 percent from the field.

    As soon as both teams hit the court for the second half, Loras went on a scoring run. The teams were all tied within the first minute of the third quarter. The Blugolds countered with a 13-4 run resulting in a score of 51-42. Advancing to the final quarter, Eau Claire was up 54-50.

    The Duhawks came out hot in the fourth scoring eight points in a row, forcing Eau Claire to call a timeout. Loras held the lead by seven with 4:56 left in the game. However, the Blugolds battled to tie up the score at 63 with 2:40 remaining.

    Hoeppner took control and achieved her fifth three-pointer of the game, but it would be enough to take the lead. Hoeppner had a career high of 22 points with five three-pointers, five rebounds and five assists. The Duhawks scored six free-throws in the last 22 seconds of the game.

    Loras took the win with a final score of 71-66, handing Eau Claire their first loss of the season.

    Looking forward, Englund said she wants to focus on defense.

    “We need to become a better, stronger, grittier, defensive team and that’s something we will be working on in the next couple of weeks before we get into league play,” Englund said.

    The Blugolds will take on yet another Iowa team, Simpson College, at 2 p.m. next Saturday on the road.