University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point women’s basketball head coach Shirley Egner is not one to compare her current team to any past iteration of Pointers.
“It’s always a different season, with different things that happen on and off the court,” Egner, UWSP coach of 29 years, said.
Such an outlook is understandable, especially in the case of this year’s team.
Last year at this time, the Pointers were adjusting to life without senior Autumn Hennes, who leads the team this season with averages of nearly 15 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Even though Hennes was unable to play in the previous two NCAA tournaments, she remains the main catalyst on the Pointer team. But, she certainly has some help out on the court.
“Autumn’s having a great year, especially after the wrist injury and the ACL,” Egner said. “She’s really worked hard at changing her game, wanting to have a little more contact instead of being out on the perimeter. She does a fantastic job for us rebounding … really, really happy for her and how her senior year is going with all the adversity she’s had to fight through these past two years.”
Hennes, who was unable to play in the previous two NCAA tournaments because of the aforementioned injuries, is the main catalyst on a Pointer team, but she certainly has some help.
Lauren Anklam, senior, averages 11 points and over two steals per game. The Taylor Tandem– Barrett and Douglas, respectively — provide UWSP with additional weaponry on the inside and outside of the arc.
Additionally, juniors Mickey and Lexi Roland, as well as senior guard Sarah Gamillo, who is playing in her senior season despite tearing her ACL in August, provide more experience for a team which, perhaps, was a bit overlooked in the preseason.
“I don’t think many people gave us a chance this year,” Egner said.
Despite the relative lack of preseason expectations from pundits, the Pointers have put themselves in position for another NCAA Tournament berth. A conference title is also a possibility, as UWSP sits just two games behind WIAC-leading UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater, who both sit at 7-1 in WIAC play.
UWSP defeated Whitewater, 70-57, in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 25.
“When you play 14 games in the WIAC, you’re ready for anything when it’s time for the NCAA tournament. We have to credit our opponents and our league for getting our league schools ready for the tournament,” Egner said.
With the regular season winding down, building on the momentum of winning five out of the previous seven games is paramount for UWSP to enter the WIAC tournament playing at a high level.
Egner said, “We really want to make sure we’re hosting a first-round game if we end up the three or four seed, and depending on how things shake out, possibly getting a bye as the second seed and hosting in the second-round.”