Yellowjackets living up to expectationsUWS women notch first win over UWEC in 25 years
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
SUPERIOR — The University of Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball team is off to a blazing start this year.
Following Wednesday’s 73-65 victory over UW-Eau Claire, UWS holds sole possession of second place in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Yellowjackets are 3-1 in conference play and 5-2 overall. Only UW-Whitewater (7-2, 4-0) has a better record.
“We expect to win this year,” said Hillary Peterson, one of three seniors playing for the Yellowjackets. “In past years we’d go in and think, ‘Let’s just try to compete, let’s try to stick with them.’ Now we’re entering games saying, ‘We’re going to win these. We’re going to beat these teams.’”
For the Yellowjackets, the quick start is a change from last season, when UWS started off 1-3 in the WIAC.
But UWS head coach Don Mulhern said it’s no secret why the women are winning, nor should their success come as a surprise.
“People are seeing the outcome of a whole lot of hard work in the offseason,” Mulhern said. “It’s really easy to think it just happens, but success doesn’t just happen. Success happens due to a lot of sacrifices that people don’t see.
“And these guys believe it’s going to happen. This is not an accident or a surprise in their minds. There’s an expectation, and that’s half the battle — believing it’s going to happen.”
Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Yellowjackets faced a lengthy losing streak against UW-Eau Claire. The Blugolds swept UWS last year, and hadn’t lost to the Yellowjackets in 25 years.
To win, the Yellowjackets knew they’d have to lead with their defense.
“We knew we had to stop Sarah Bingea and Courtney Lewis. We had to come together and play strong defense,” said UWS sophomore Sally Linzmeier. “They’re more of a mid-range team, so we had to buckle down and play good defense and we had to take care of the ball.”
Bingea, a senior forward, was among UWEC’s leading scorers in last year’s come-from-behind victory over the Yellowjackets. She entered Wednesday’s game averaging 12.2 points and a team-leading 9.6 rebounds per game. Lewis, the Blugolds’ leading scorer, came in averaging 14.8 points per game.
The atmosphere was tense in Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium for the first 10 minutes of the game as the Yellowjackets and Blugolds traded baskets. The score was tied six times and the lead changed four times during that span.
UWS forced the taller Blugolds to settle for outside shots during early play, and with 9:34 remaining in the first half the Yellowjackets began to pull away.
Peterson started with back-to-back shots to put UWS up 20-16. Eau Claire’s Cady Roedl answered with a 3-pointer that ended a four-minute lull for both teams, but UWS took control over the next two minutes with a 12-1 scoring run.
Connie Urmanski’s 3-pointer at 5:28 put the Yellowjackets up by four, and Sally Linzmeier made it 25-19 seconds later with a long 2-pointer. Cansis Bodsberg kept the rally going with a steal and layup, and Urmanski gave UWS a 29-20 lead at 4:15 with another layup.
Kristen Nett then finished off the run with a 3-point play to give the Yellowjackets a 32-20 lead with 3:54 left in the first half.
“We were trying to run on them because we know that we’re a fast-breaking team and they’re more of a half-court offense,” Linzmeier said.
UWS led 38-31 at halftime, but the Blugolds surged to start the second half.
Madison Johnson began the half with a pair of free throws for UWEC, and Casteele Miller erased the remainder of Superior’s lead with a layup and a 3-pointer.
The Blugolds then took their first lead since the 12-minute mark in the first half with a shot inside and a free throw from Nicole Slovensky at 16:23 to make it 41-38.
“We lost our lead but we really didn’t lose our composure, which is huge,” Peterson said. “Connie Urmanski is just an amazing point guard, and she is in every single huddle (keeping players calm). We really rally around her a lot, and she kept us going and kept us focused.”
Urmanski snapped UWS out of its slump with a layup at 14:34 to tie the game at 43-43. Peterson gave the Yellowjackets the lead on a turn-around jumper in the paint, and Linzmeier capped off the 6-0 run with a layup in transition.
The Blugolds hit a 3-pointer and converted inside on a 3-point play to tie the score at 50-50, but UWS did not surrender the lead for the rest of the game.
Linzmeier provided a crucial boost for the Yellowjackets as the game wound down with six unanswered points that put UWS up 69-61 with 2:13 to play.
“If we’re in a slump, all it takes is a quick three or a steal and that’s our fire,” Linzmeier said. “That has been our game all year long. We feed off of our press, and when we can make plays and break it open and make it fast-paced, that’s our game.”
Linzmeier led UWS for the night with 24 points. Nett and Urmanski scored 15 apiece, and Peterson added 12 points.
Bingea was the only Blugold to reach double figures, finishing with 14 points.
The Yellowjackets host the College of St. Scholastica at 7 p.m. today. UWS travels to Mankato, Minn. Saturday to face Bethany Lutheran and then is off until Dec. 29.
JACKET JOTTINGS: Wednesday’s victory over UWEC (4-5, 2-2) marked the first time since 1987 that UWS had defeated UWEC. … In last year’s game between UWS and UWEC in Superior, the Yellowjackets led by seven at halftime but faltered down the stretch to lose 61-56. … The Blugolds have not won a game on the road this season. UWS, meanwhile, has not lost a game at home.
UWS 73, UWEC 65
UW-Eau Claire (4-5) — Bingea, Sarah 3-8 8-8 14; Johnson, Madison 3-7 6-9 13; Miller, Casteele 3-6 2-3 9; Lewis, Courtney 3-12 1-1 7; Roedl, Cady 2-4 1-2 7; Sahr, Kristin 2-6 0-0 5; Lichtfuss, Teenie 2-5 0-0 5; Rempert, Leah 1-2 1-1 3; Riley, Shannon 1-3 0-0 2; Becker, Arien 0-0 0-0 0; Slovensky, Nicole 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 19-24 65.
UW-Superior (6-2) — Linzmeier, Sally 10-20 4-5 24; Urmanski, Connie 5-11 3-4 15; Nett, Kristen 5-8 3-4 15; Peterson, Hillary 6-10 0-0 12; Kennedy, Grace 2-2 1-2 5; Bodsberg, Cansis 1-4 0-0 2; Blake, Britnee 0-1 0-0 0; Lindberg, Allyssa 0-1 0-0 0; Mcdonald, Kailee 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 29-59 11-15 73.
UW-Eau Claire 31-34—65
3-point goals—UWEC 6-19 (Roedl, 2-3; Johnson, 1-2; Lichtfuss, 1-2; Sahr, 1-4; Miller, 1-4; Rempert, 0-1; Lewis, 0-3), UWS 4-9 (Urmanski, 2-3; Nett, 2-3; Blake, 0-1; Lindberg, 0-1; Linzmeier 0-1). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—UWEC 36 (Bingea, 6), UWS 33 (Peterson, 7). Assists—UWEC 9 (Roedl, 6), UWS 14 (Urmanski, 5). Total fouls—UWEC 13, UWS 18. Technical fouls—None. A—157
Bronson Byrne scored 14 points and blocked six shots Wednesday night as the UWS men’s basketball team defeated UW-Eau Claire 75-53.
The Yellowjackets (3-6 and 1-3 in WIAC) opened with an 11-2 lead and eventually led 40-30 at the half in breaking a four-game losing streak.