‘Cats fall to UW-Parkside

IN+WITH+THE+NEW%E2%80%94The+Wildcats+are+losing+its+top+three+players+in+senior+forwards+Jessica+Schultz+and+Erin+Honkala+and+junior+guard+Lexi+Smith%2C+but+its+young+players+will+need+to+step+up+next+season.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics.

IN WITH THE NEW—The Wildcats are losing its top three players in senior forwards Jessica Schultz and Erin Honkala and junior guard Lexi Smith, but its young players will need to step up next season. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson

After a strong start offensively, the fifth seeded NMU Women’s Basketball team faulted in the second half in a 80-67 defeat to the fourth seeded University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UWP) in the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinals to end the season at 13-16.

The Wildcats scored 39 points in the first half, and Head Coach Troy Mattson said that was his team’s best offensive half of the year. However, UWP was only down 39-36 at the break, and the Rangers went on a run in the second half. UWP outscored NMU 44-28 in the second half en route to the 13-point win. The ‘Cats slowed down, but its competitiveness didn’t.       

“We played really hard, I can honestly say we left it all out there. It was a match-up game, their weaknesses were interior defense and our weakness with them was being able to contain their five guards that they got out there on the court,” Mattson said.

Mattson said the game turned around in Parkside’s favor when freshman guard Makaylee Kuhn and senior forward Erin Honkala were in foul trouble in the third quarter when NMU had a seven-point lead. UWP responded and blew the game open with two 22-point quarters.

“They made a great run on us at the time, they just continued throughout the whole time,” Mattson said. “They stiffened up their defense on Jessica and Erin, which ultimately affected the game to the point where it got away from us at the end.”

NMU was forced to battle injuries all year, almost every major player on the team either was hurt or sick at some point. Those injuries put limitations on the Wildcats as a team, but the players on the court were able to pick up some wins.

“We fought hard all year, the only thing you can do is fight. I thought we gave great effort almost every night, we beat the teams that we were supposed to beat other than one game, so that say something,” Mattson said. “We didn’t beat anybody that we weren’t supposed to beat, and that also says something.”

Now the offseason is what’s next for Mattson’s crew, and losing senior forwards Honkala and Jessica Schultz is a tough blow for this Wildcat team.

“It’s going to be a total adjustment for us as a program because also going out with them (Schultz and Honkala) obviously is (junior guard) Lexi (Smith) not being able to return (career ending injury), so we just lost three really, really major players in our program, and we’re probably going to have to replace them with freshman,” Mattson said. “We got a big adjustment period because we’ve been able to rely on those three to do a lot of the work for us.”

A few players will need to make strides in the offseason for next year’s team, Mattson said, but a lot of questions will need to be answered.