UW-Oshkosh looks to cap rise with NCAA bid

UW-Oshkosh head coach Brad Fischer watches his team from the bench.
UW-Oshkosh head coach Brad Fischer watches his team from the bench.
OSHKOSH - The UW-Oshkosh women’s basketball team will host UW-Superior Saturday afternoon in the WIAC tournament title game. The winner claims the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.  A win would complete an amazing turn around for the Titans.

The team is in their second year under Head Coach Brad Fischer. They’re nationally ranked and finished second in the conference in the regular season for a second consecutive season. The year before Fischer took over; the Titans were just 7 and 18 and won just one conference game.

The rapid rise of the Titans took even Coach Fischer by surprise. "I try not to make a plan, a four or five year plan but I thought it would take a little bit longer but it's a credit to our kids. They bought in to what I've tried to sell and luckily we've won some games to make them think I know what I'm doing and tonight was probably our best overall game defensively and we were sharp offensively. "

When he says kids, it’s not hyperbole.  The roster features six freshman, two sophomores and just one senior.  Sarah Stecker, that one senior, happens to lead the team in scoring. Stecker said it doesn’t matter to the players what class they’re in.  It just matters that you help the team.

"Everyone's just so unselfish. We don't have a player who scores 20 points per game but we have different girls who step up. Every night it's someone different," Stecker said.

The underclassmen have brought some swagger with them to the program.  Many of them come from successful high school programs and some like Alex Richard at Kewaunee and Taylor Schmidt at Algoma won state titles. That mindset of winning has been important to the program according to Coach Fischer.

“You know they're winners. We tried to recruit girls who are in the state tournaments and lots that have won state championships. They expect that when we come out to play that we're going to win and I don't think that they care that what grade they’re in or what their experiences are," Fischer said.

Freshman point guard, Taylor Schmidt further explained the importance of being a part of a winning program. "Coming from a winning team you don't want to lose you have that extra push to be successful. We don't like to lose,” Schmidt said.

One of the benefits of winning, with an assist by UW-Superior, is the chance to play for the conference title at the Kolf Sports Center.  The Titans are 12-2 at home this season including a 56-42 win over Superior on senior day.

After the semifinals win over UW-Stevens Point, Stecker talked about what the home court advantage is like. "It's huge, I don't know if you saw our fans up there.  The Kolf crazies, they've really helped us win this year."

Coach Fischer added, "We have a good student section that comes out and they've got a high school mentality and really get our crowd revved up, so to get one more shot in this building and to have a chance to win a conference championship is special."

Schmidt said she and her teammates know just how big Saturday’s game is but they’re keeping the same mindset they’ve had all season, the mindset that’s gotten them to this point.

"We focus on one game at a time and when we play Superior we won't be thinking about the NCAA tournament we'll be thinking about Superior."

If UW-Oshkosh wins the WIAC tournament title on Saturday it would secure their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2000 and first WIAC tournament title since 1999.