Eau Claire (WQOW) — After losing to UW-Whitewater in the WIAC conference tournament semifinals last season, the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team was left one game away on the outside of the bubble looking in for the NCAA Tournament field.
But that loss motivated them this off-season to push harder, and set themselves up for success in 2018. Offensively, it helps returning their top four scorers from last season in junior guards Kelsey Bakken (10.4 ppg) and Halle Hoeppner (9.4 ppg), sophomore center Katie Essen (7.4 ppg), and also two-time first team all-conference junior forward Anna Graaskamp (15.6 ppg). But even with all the offensive firepower that the Blugolds have, they want their defense to set the tone to win them games.
“We really like to focus on offense, but this year we also want to focus on defense a lot,” says Bakken. “We really want to get a lot of defensive stops, and keep our teams under 40 and 50 points.”
UWEC brings back all five starters from last year’s 18-win team, and hope the experience on that end of the court will lead to improvements.
“We’re trying to make sure as a team that our defense wins games for us,” head coach Tonja Englund, who is entering her 19th season says.” And last year I think we relied on our offense too much, and when we needed to get that gritty stop, but we just didn’t get it. And that goes a lot with our personality, we just need to be a gritty group a lot of times. When it comes to one of those tough games on the road where we can get a stop.”
The Blugolds open their regular season Saturday, they’ll be on the road taking on Northwestern-Saint Paul at 6 P.M.