AMES, Iowa. - Before No. 12 seed Green Bay (28-4) headed out of its locker room to face No. 5 seed Virginia (21-10) in the first round of the NCAA tournament, head coach Matt Bollant reminded them of all the "firsts" this year's team has accomplished.
The Phoenix can add to its list of beating the highest seed they've ever faced in the NCAA tournament as Green Bay upset Virginia 69-67 to advance to Tuesday's second round.
"I'm just absolutely thrilled for our team and our players. There are so many hands that touch and make a difference in our program. For the committee to step up and honor a mid-major was awesome," said head coach Matt Bollant.
As the youngest squad in Green Bay history to play in the NCAA tournament, it was fearless.
Junior Kayla Tetschlag (Sheboygan, Wis.) got into early foul trouble committing two in the first four minutes of play. Green Bay didn't skip a beat as freshman Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) showed no fear coming off the bench putting up 11 points in the first half.
"I've been in big games before and I just looked at it like that. Going into this game I feel I've prepared the best I have all season and just felt so confident," said Ritchie who finished with 14 points, tying her career high.
Green Bay cut Virginia's lead to one in the first half with 5:47 to play when Julie Wojta (Mishicot, Wis.) drove the lane for a jump shot making it 23-22 in favor of Virginia. On the defensive end Wojta had a steal which drew a Virginia foul sending Tetschlag to the free-throw line to give Green Bay the one-point advantage for good.
Despite shooting 33 percent from the field in the first half and turning the ball over 11 times, Green Bay's 94 percent shooting from the charity stripe carried the team to build its largest lead of the half, 34-27, at the break.
Not going unnoticed in the first half was the performance by Celeste Hoewisch (Hortonville, Wis.) who went 3-for-4 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line leading the Phoenix with 13 points and four rebounds. "I think our team was the most aggressive team and our aggressiveness just carried us through the first half," said Hoewisch.
After scoring all four of her first half points from the free-throw line, Tetschlag came out in the second half scoring six of Green Bay's eight points to start the half. The Phoenix built its lead to as many as 16 with 16:01 to play but Virginia chipped away making for a nail-biter finish.
With 1:25 to play, Green Bay was leading 64-58 when Hoewisch fouled out. Green Bay was holding to a four-point lead under a minute to play when Tetschlag fouled out with 0:37.6 left on the clock.
"Celeste and I just started praying sitting on the bench as we were losing our poise and turning the ball over. It was definitely nerve wrecking but it all worked out," said Tetschlag.
With both teams in the bonus situation, Wojta made four of her six key free throws down the stretch to hold off the Cavaliers. Despite every effort by Virgnia and its star player Monica Wright, who scored a game-high 34 points, Green Bay advanced to the second round for the third time in program history. Green Bay did not score a field goal in the final 12:17 of the game.
Hoewisch broke Green Bay's individual record for free throws made in an NCAA tournament game (13-for-15) as the Phoenix committed a season-high 30 turnovers while Virginia recorded a season-high 22 steals in the game.
Green Bay is the lowest seeded team to beat Virginia in its NCAA tournament history and lowest seed to advance in the 2010 tournament. The Phoenix will now prepare to play host school and No. 4 seed Iowa State (24-7) on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. (CT).