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Women's basketball season ends with three consecutive victories

March 12, 2019

UW-River Falls Women's basketball season came to an end after a three-game winning streak propelled the team to a 10-15 record on the year.

Despite having a losing record to finish out the season, the Falcons finished strong. The team won each of their last three games. The team had victories against three University of Wisconsin schools: Whitewater, Platteville and Eau Claire. Earlier in the season, the Falcons lost against two of those three schools. On Jan. 2, the Falcons lost at Eau Claire 55-64, followed by another loss against Whitewater on Jan. 19 when the Falcons lost 34-62.

Falcon Head Coach Derek Staley said about the three-game winning streak, "We started to come together as an offense. We have had so many players who had to step up into new roles and they struggled to consistently fill them this year. It finally came together at the end of the year at both ends of the court."

Despite not making the WIAC playoffs, the Falcons had three players selected to the All-WIAC Team. Senior Taylor Paulsrud, freshman Jenna Zeman, and senior Madelyn O'Brien were all named to the team. Paulsrud and Zeman were honorable mentions, while O'Brien made the All-Sportsmanship Team.

Paulsrud was a leader on the team since the minute she stepped on the court. Over the course of her career as a Falcon, she averaged over 10 points per game, two rebounds per game, along with a steal and a block per game. Paulsrud shot over 30 percent from behind the arc and played over 30 minutes per game.

Staley said about Paulsrud, "It's impossible to replace Taylor. She does so many things not only on the court but off of the court as well. She just does all the little things. She almost always guarded the opponent's best player as well. We will have to have a couple players try to fill her role next year."

While the Falcons will miss the contributions of Pualsrud and O'Brien, they have young talent ready to take the reins from the outgoing seniors. In her first season at UWRF, Jenna Zeman won the starting point guard position and never looked back. In only 21 career games, Zeman turned into one of the most productive players on the team.

When talking about Zeman, Head Coach Staley said, "Jenna will be a big piece for us going forward. She stepped into a role that most first-year players would not be able to fill. I think the confidence she gained throughout this season will be huge for her as her role grows into next season."

She has averaged over 10 points per game, nearly four rebounds, and shot 35 percent from the three-point line. Perhaps her most significant stat of the season was steals per game. Zeman averaged over two steals per game. That number ranked her 4th most in the entire WIAC for steals. While contributing and being a solid offensive player, she was an even better defensive player in the 2018 season.

The Falcons Women's basketball program is an extremely young team. There are only three seniors graduating on the entire roster. Anna Rollag, O'Brien, and Pualsrud , their departure will leave a gap in the roster that needs to be filled by the younger players.

Staley talked about next season, "We just need to learn and grow every day. The team will hopefully be a lot more comfortable with our system. This year was our first year in this offensive system and it took a long time to figure it out."

Moving forward, the Falcons will look to players who have already contributed in their time with the team. Zeman and Brianna Leahy played significant minutes throughout the 2018 season. Both Zeman and Leahy were the only players on the team in the top five in points per game, rebounds, and assists.

When addressing returning players such as Zeman and Leahy Staley said, "Next year we will be much farther ahead of that learning curve with the players we have coming back and a few new ones who fit the style we are trying to play."

Finishing the season strong on a three-game win streak provided the young team a boost of confidence going forward. Through the young leaders on the team in Zeman and Leahy, the Falcons have a legitimate WIAC roster moving into the 2019 season.