Women’s Basketball surges in first round of GLIAC playoffs; Wildcats to face MTU in semi-final

Katie Bultman

An 82-64 victory over the Northwood Timberwolves in the first round of playoffs on Wednesday, March 5, sends the women’s basketball team to a GLIAC semi-final match against the Michigan Tech Huskies.

This will be the third time the rival teams face one another over the course of this season. In the first match, Michigan Tech earned a 71-65 win over the ’Cats in Houghton on Monday, Feb. 3. The Wildcats claimed the most recent match-up with a 67-59 victory at home in the final regular-season game on Thursday, Feb. 27.

(NorthWind File Photo) Sophomore forward Alyson Matkovich (23), sophomore forward Nea Makela (20) and junior guard Lauren Gruber join senior forward Annie Rubendunst (15) in her final game with Michigan Tech, Thursday, Feb. 27.
(NorthWind File Photo)
Sophomore forward Alyson Matkovich (23), sophomore forward Nea Makela (20) and junior guard Lauren Gruber join senior forward Annie Rubendunst (15) in her final game with Michigan Tech, Thursday, Feb. 27.her over the course of this season. In the first match, Michigan Tech earned a 71-65 win over the ’Cats in Houghton on Monday, Feb. 3. The Wildcats claimed the most recent match-up with a 67-59 victory at home in the final regular-season game on Thursday, Feb. 27.

Senior forward Annie Rubendunst said the ’Cats (16-6 GLIAC, 20-7 overall) have seen the Huskies enough to know how they play.

“Tech is our rival, so we know their strengths and weaknesses and I think we just have to fight,” Rubendunst said. “As long as we can get those matchups and score down low, I think we can win.”

Rubendunst finished with 23 points in the win over Northwood. Junior forward Abbey DeBruin chipped in a game-high 25 points to lead the ’Cats to victory.

Head coach Troy Mattson said he thought Rubendunst and DeBruin had outstanding games on the offensive end.

“This is the third time we played Northwood, and its never easy to beat a team three times in a row,” Mattson said. “We did the things we needed to do and now we’re excited to play in the next round of the tournament.”

The Wildcats first beat Northwood 74-62 at home on Saturday, Feb. 1. Sophomore forward Nea Makela led the team with 16 points. The ’Cats then traveled to Northwood on Saturday, Feb. 22 to take a 56-46 road win. Rubendunst again led the team, with 17 points.

Rubendunst said the ’Cats knew Northwood had a very aggressive team, and the Wildcats had to stop the drive.

“This was our third time playing Northwood,” Rubendunst said. “We kind of knew what we needed to do to win, and we executed in that way.”

The ’Cats are on an eight-game win streak heading into the GLIAC semi-final tournament game at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 8 at Wayne State University.

The Huskies, 16-6 in conference and 19-8 overall, earned a 69-63 victory in overtime against Saginaw Valley State University in the first round of the tournament Wednesday, March 5 to make it to the semi-final game with the ’Cats.

Mattson said the Wildcats will prepare for the game against Tech by looking at the game films to figure out where NMU can make play adjustments.

“Defensively, we need to…finish the play by defensive rebounding, which we did a hell of a good job with last time,” Mattson said. “Once we keep looking at those (tapes) we can try to figure out how we can attack them (MTU) and do things right.”

In the last game against Michigan Tech on Thursday, Feb. 27 at Berry Events Center, the ’Cats took down 43 rebounds in comparison to the Huskies’ 25 for the 67-59 Wildcat victory at home. Thirty-four of the Wildcat rebounds were defensive.

This time last year, the Wildcats were saying their final goodbyes to the graduating class and turning in their uniforms. The ’Cats lost in the first round of the tournament last season, 68-35, to Ashland University. Ashland went on to win the 2013 GLIAC tournament, the NCAA Division II Midwest Region Championship game and also took home the NCAA Division II National Championship title.

This season, Ashland University (16-6 GLIAC, 18-9 overall) lost 56-54 in the first round of play to Malone University (14-8 GLIAC, 20-9 overall).

The Wildcats will make their appearance in the GLIAC semi-final match for the first time with this group of athletes.

Rubendunst said the team is very excited to head down to Wayne State University for the game.

“This is the first time for all of us to be getting into the second round of the GLIAC conference tournament,” Rubendunst said. “We are so excited and we are just trying to go even further.”

Tip-off is at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 8 at Wayne State University, in Detroit.

Mattson said the Wildcats are excited to have the opportunity to play their rival in the playoff series.

“It should be a good game down there,” Mattson said. “Hopefully we can continue to play the way we have.”