By Matt Haile —
The University of Wisconsin–Stout women’s basketball team is off to a slow start this season. Sitting at 3-5 the Blue Devils have to work on some aspects of their game but have shown great potential throughout the season.
The team has a very strong senior class and is led by their captains: guard Kyleigh Hebert (Jr, Spencer, Wis.), forward Brea Boomer (Sr, Grand Portage, Minn.), guard Katelynne Folkers (Sr, Fall Creek, Wis.) and guard Haley Froehlich (Sr, Mondovi, Wis.).
The Blue Devils finished 11-15 last season and started off struggling the same way this year. The bright spot was their last four conference games in which they went 4-0.
Despite their record, the team goal has not changed, according to 28-year veteran Head Coach Mark Thomas, who has led the Blue Devils to five Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearances.
“Every season I expect to contend for a championship, that’s the tradition of our program,” said Thomas. “My expectation at the beginning of the season was to be a championship caliber team and that hasn’t changed.”
According to Thomas, the Blue Devils have athleticism and experience, qualities that are two of the team’s greatest strengths. “I would say the majority of the time we are the better team athletically on the floor.”
Folkers believes that one of the squad’s biggest strengths is their depth.
“We have depth to our team, on the perimeter our guards are athletic and quick,” said Folkers. “We have players that can attack the basket off the dribble and we have hot shooters. On the inside we have a lot of different options that we can through at teams. We can be a real threat in our conference, we just need to pull all of our strengths together,” Folkers went on to say.
In order to contend for a championship the team will have to focus on improving their defense and defensive transition.
“We need to improve on getting back on defense and stopping the ball before it gets to the paint,” said Froelich. “Our half-court defense needs work as well, we need to focus on keeping the ball out of the lane and playing ‘team’ defense. Once we clean up our defense it will lead to better offense.”
The Blue Devils have already been challenged by a couple of tough teams. They played St. Norbert College, a nationally ranked team, to kick off their season and also played St. Mary’s, another nationally ranked school, early on.
The Blue Devils are treating every conference game with the utmost importance.
“Every conference game is huge,” said Coach Thomas. “With my experience in this conference I have looked at other team’s rosters and strengths and noticed every team is even. The conference is wide open. Nothing is going to come easy and we’re going to have to work for it.”
The team opened up conference play on Saturday, Dec. 6 against University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, winning a down-to-the wire game, 54-52 on a running layup by Hebert with just 17 seconds remaining.
Stout will be back in action at University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point on Wednesday, Dec. 10.