WIAC Preview: Women's Basketball Picked to Finish Fifth

WIAC Preview: Women's Basketball Picked to Finish Fifth

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MADISON, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - Defending conference champion University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is the unanimous choice to capture the 2014 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) women's basketball championship, based on a preseason poll conducted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

The Warhawks, who earned the sixth first-place WIAC trophy in program history a season ago, received all 18 first-place votes in the conference projections and are ranked No. 2 in the USA Today Sports Division III Coaches' Preseason Poll. UW-Whitewater also reached the title game of the NCAA Division III Championship for the first time in program archives and accumulated 26 victories - the second-highest mark in school listings.

UW-Whitewater welcomes back three starters from that squad, including senior Kaitlyn Thill, who has started 89 of 90 games in her career, and owns the conference career record with 310 steals. The Warhawks have won at least 21 games six consecutive seasons under head coach Keri Carollo, who is 22 wins from tying the program record. The 2013-14 campaign features 11 of the first 16 games away from home.

UW-Stevens Point, ranked No. 21 by USA Today Sports, has won six consecutive WIAC tournament titles and accumulated 20-plus victories in 12 of the last 13 seasons. The Pointers bring back 11 letterwinners from a year ago, including senior Myranda Tyler, who is the leading returning scorer at 10.3 points per contest. In 2012-13, UW-Stevens Point finished seventh in the NCAA Division III with a 36.5 three-point field goal percentage and 10th with a 44.2 field-goal percentage. Gone from last season's squad is Sam Barber, who won Women's Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division III Player of the Year honors a season ago and is the reigning two-time WIAC Player of the Year. Head coach Shirley Egner tops the conference's all-time wins chart with 457 victories.

After finishing 7-18 in 2011-12, UW-Oshkosh posted a 20-6 mark a season ago for the best improvement (11 games) in WIAC history. In 2012-13, UW-Oshkosh placed third in the NCAA Division III with a 77.3 free-throw percentage. Junior Katelyn Kuehl is the lone returning starter, averaging 8.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game a year ago. The Titans finish the season with four of their last five contests at Kolf Sports Center. UW-Oshkosh has finished in third place or higher in the league standings 18 times in the past 24 seasons.

UW-Superior is coming off the best season in program history - tallying 19 overall victories and 10 conference triumphs. The Yellowjackets also hosted their first-ever WIAC tournament game and recorded their first tournament win since 2000. Junior Sally Linzmeier leads this year's returnees after ranking second in the league with 16.6 points per game and 3.3 steals per contest. She has 155 career steals to rank sixth on the Yellowjackets all-time chart. UW-Superior will play seven of its first nine contests away from home and finish the season with six of nine games away from Mertz Mortorelli Gym. Head coach Donald Mulhern is nine victories away from 200 in his career.

UW-Eau Claire's top returner is junior Courtney Lewis, who started all 26 games last season and averaged 10.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest. She also was second on the team with 61 assists. Sophomore Teenie Lichtfuss started 21 games and contributed 7.4 points per game. The Blugolds have amassed 21-plus wins in 17 of the last 25 seasons. Head coach Tonja Englund ranks second on the program's all-time wins list with 247 victories.

UW-La Crosse brings back 11 letterwinners, including four from the 2011-12 campaign, and three starters from last year. Among the four 2011-12 members are seniors Mallory Cramer, Katie Ehlen and Sarah Kopp. Ehlen led the team with 7.0 rebounds per game and was fourth with 7.2 points per contest, while Cramer was third with 7.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. UW-La Crosse will play seven of its first eight games of the 2013-14 campaign away from Mitchell Hall, but has five of its first seven WIAC contests at home.

UW-River Falls returns three starters, including junior Tess Lueders, who started all 26 contests a season ago, and averaged 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. The Falcons open the 2013-14 season with seven of their first nine games on the road. At the Karges Center, UW-River Falls has compiled a 45-13 mark in the last five seasons. Head coach Cindy Holbrook needs 12 victories to reach 200 in her career.

UW-Stout's 2013-14 roster features 13 returning letterwinners, but only two seniors. The Blue Devils bring back three of their top-five scorers and seven of their top-nine rebounders. Junior Brea Boomer and senior Sami Schoeder contributed 11.8 and 8.7 points per game, respectively, during the 2012-13 campaign. Head coach Mark Thomas enters his 27th season at the helm of the program and is the longest tenured women's basketball coach in the WIAC.

UW-Platteville welcomes seven newcomers to this year's squad that has six returners, including two sophomores, three juniors and one senior. The Pioneers return their leading scorer and rebounder in junior Alyssa Krajoc. She compiled 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest. The 2013-14 schedule features nine of the first 12 games at home.

2013-14 Preseason Predictions--Voted on by WIAC Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors

2012-13 Record
1. UW-Whitewater (18) 26-7 overall, 14-2 WIAC
2. UW-Stevens Point 24-6, 12-4
3. UW-Oshkosh 20-6, 12-4
4. UW-Superior 19-8, 10-6
5. UW-Eau Claire 11-15, 6-10
6. UW-La Crosse 10-15, 5-11
7. UW-River Falls 14-12, 8-8
8. UW-Stout 10-15, 4-12
9. UW-Platteville 5-20, 1-15
( )--First-place votes

Team Nuggets

UW-Eau Claire
Head Coach: Tonja Englund; 14th season at UWEC; 247-117
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 9/8
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/3
Returning All-WIAC: Courtney Lewis, Jr., F (2013-Honorable)

UW-La Crosse
Head Coach: Lois Heeren; 21st season (15th at UWL); 233-282 (overall) / 181-180 (at UWL)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/6
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: None

Head Coach: Brad Fischer; 2nd season at UWO; 20-6
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 7/6
Starters Returning/Lost: 1/4
Returning All-WIAC: None

Head Coach: Megan Wilson; 4th season at UWP; 19-56
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 6/7
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/3
Returning All-WIAC: None

UW-River Falls
Head Coach: Cindy Holbrook; 14th season at UWRF; 188-151
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 6/7
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: None

UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach: Shirley Egner; 25th season at UWSP; 457-189
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/6
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/3
Returning All-WIAC: None

Head Coach: Mark Thomas; 27th season at UWST; 431-260
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 13/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: Brea Boomer, Jr., F (2013-Honorable); Sami Schoeder, Sr., G (2011-Honorable, 2013-Honorable)

Head Coach: Donald Mulhern; 17th season (8th at UWS); 191-218 (overall) / 65-113 (at UWS)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/4
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/3
Returning All-WIAC: Sally Linzmeier, Jr., G (2012-Honorable, 2012-Defensive, 2013-First, 2013-Defensive)

Head Coach: Keri Carollo; 12th season at UWW; 207-102
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 12/12
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/2
Returning All-WIAC: Mary Merg, Sr., G (2013-Honorable); Kaitlyn Thill, Sr., G (2011-Defensive, 2012-First, 2012-Defensive, 2013-First, 2013-Defensive)