The UW-River Falls women’s basketball team is striving for success on the court and battling to make the WIAC playoffs and off the court working on service projects.
The team has faced adversity from the start of the season when they lost point guards Jessie Van Wyhe and Emily Larson to season ending injuries and had to find the right on-court chemistry with 12 freshmen on the roster. They have had injuries on and off all season long including losing leading scorer Richell Mehus against UW-Superior to a back injury six games ago.
“It hurt us to lose Jessie right away and Emily was playing so strong this fall, but we have had plenty of players step up and play good basketball,” said Head Coach Cindy Holbrook said. “It has seemed like we have always had one or two players injured throughout the season, but that is just part of a normal basketball season.”
The team has struggled with a 6-16 overall record on the season but are 4-9 in WIAC play which has them tied for sixth place with only three conference games left. The top six teams make the WIAC postseason. Right now UW-Platteville and UW-Superior each have five wins and are tied for fourth, UW-Eau Claire, UW- La Crosse, and UWRF all have four wins and are tied for sixth and Stout has three wins sitting in ninth place.
“We have been in a lot of close games and we could have won more but the good news is we are still in the battle for sixth. We are shooting for three wins down the stretch but two would be nice,” junior guard Kristi Elles said.
The tiebreaker in the WIAC goes to head to head record first. UWRF beat Eau Claire twice and would own the tiebreaker against them. They split against La Crosse. If the tie is still not broken after head to head record then it goes to how the team’s record against other division opponents is starting with the first place team. There are five ways a tie can break in the WIAC rulebook all the way to settling it by a coin toss if it still cannot be broken.
When asked what the team had to do to win the next three games Holbrook said, “Well we do not have to play like Superman. I keep telling the players we do not need to do anything special other then play our game and we have a chance to win.”
The team has played its whole roster in some games this season which is unusual but is due to the fact the team is so young. Holbrook said that one week someone will play great for them but struggle the next week which has caused the line up to get switched up throughout the season.
Hailey Siegle and Tess Lueders have had strong seasons for the team. Sielge is averaging 9.6 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game while Lueders, the lone senior on the team, is averaging nine points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game.
The next three games UWRF will play are at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Stevens Point, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at home vs. Superior and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at home vs. Platteville. The game against Superior is also UWRF’s Coaches vs. Cancer game. Holbrook said in the past the team has supported breast cancer awareness for the game but this year they will be doing pancreatic cancer.
“There is a player on the team that a personal connection in her family with pancreatic cancer so this year the event will be hitting a little closer to home than in years past,” Holbrook said.
To help support the cause that night fans can buy $10 awareness shirts and donate to the cause. Shirts can be bought in the athletic department.
The team has been active off the court in many other areas as well. Elles has been a big reason for that and said that working as an upperclassman and captain on the team her role has been to coordinate events and make sure everyone is on the same page.
“It is so easy to get charity work done when you have so many hands to help. It got sparked with the Falcon Cup event but then it got contagious and we wanted to anything and everything we could to help,” Elles said.
The team did a wrist band sale selling Falcon for Life wristbands. With the money made they donated $300 to the food pantry. They also donated 22 toys to Toys for Tots, wrote letters to soldiers overseas and did a coat drive where 43 coats were collected and donated to Hope for the City. Elles said they still have some money left over and are looking to do one more project this year.