By: Jill Wunrow
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - After the Green Bay women's basketball program's most successful season during the 2010-11 campaign, it's hard to imagine that success being topped, or even matched in the 2011-12 campaign after losing two of what most deemed as the most successful players in program history.
As always, the program continues to set new standards, achieving above and beyond expectations as the 2011-12 season saw the emergence of All-American candidate in senior Julie Wojta (Francis Creek, Wis.), the most memorable comeback in program history, along with program records previously thought to be untouchable.
This season marked the second time in program history the Phoenix has notched 30 wins or more with its record of 31-2. Green Bay has 13 consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins and its 34th consecutive winning season is the third longest streak of all-time.
Green Bay once again made its schedule as tough as possible with playing 2011 WNIT champion Toledo twice along with Eastern Michigan who appeared in this season's NCAA Tournament. Green Bay faced Illinois in the San Juan Shootout over Thanksgiving break along with Georgia Tech, who advanced to the Sweet 16 of this year's NCAA Tournament.
For the first time in program history, the Phoenix went undefeated in both road games and non-conference play, posting a 12-0 and 13-0 record respectively. In regular season play, Green Bay outscored BCS opponents by an average of 14.3 points per game, going 4-0 with wins over Illinois (82-62), Georgia Tech (67-62, ot), Marquette (66-50), and Wisconsin (65-49). Wojta was one of three players to average in double-figure scoring against BCS opponents this season, pouring in 19.8 points while grabbing 10.3 rebounds per contest.
AMONG THE LEAGUE...Green Bay won its 14th consecutive regular season conference title, the nation's longest active streak, posting a 17-1 record, with its lone loss (70-58) Feb. 9 against Detroit. Green Bay led league play in nine statistical categories including scoring offense (74.8), scoring margin (+21.3), field goal percentage (.436), scoring defense (53.5), free throw percentage (.759), assists (18.2), turnover margin (+11.1), steals (12.6), and assist/turnover ratio (1.3).
For the second consecutive season, a Green Bay women's basketball player earned Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors as Wojta claimed both awards. Wojta was also a First Team All-League and All-League Defensive Team selection while teammate Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) earned her first postseason accolade as a Second Team All-League selection. Fifth-year head coach Matt Bollant earned his second consecutive and fourth Coach of the Year honor with an impressive 85-5 Horizon League record while leading the Phoenix.
Wojta is the eighth player in Green Bay history to earn Horizon League Player of the Year honors and second to be recognized as the Defensive Player of the Year but first to have sole possession of both honors in the same season. Against conference opponents, Wojta led the league averaging 3.6 steals per game, was second in both rebounding (10.4) and assist/turnover ratio (1.9), third in scoring (19.3), and fourth in field goal percentage (.493).
Watch highlights of Wojta's amazing season here.
For the second consecutive season, classmate Hannah Quilling (Eau Claire, Wis.) led the league in assist/turnover ratio (2.0) with 59 assists and 29 turnovers while finishing sixth among league players with 2.0 steals per contest. Junior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) finished fourth in free throw percentage (.820) while Ritchie was fifth in field goal percentage (.493), seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.369) and eighth in both steals per game (1.9) and free throw percentage (.780).
Green Bay captured its 12th conference tournament title (11th in the Horizon League) with a 66-53 win over No. 2 seed Detroit. It was the second consecutive and third overall title for the Phoenix under Bollant. Wojta was named Tournament MVP while averaging 10.7 points and 9.3 rebounds throughout the three games. Wojta also tied a tournament record, grabbing 12 steals. Wojta posted double double performances in both the semifinal and championship contests, including a game-high 29 points and 12 rebounds against Detroit. Freshman Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) had a career performance in the championship game pouring in 20 points, going 3-for-5 from three point range while playing a career-high 39 minutes.
The Phoenix outscored its three opponents (Valpo, UIC, Detroit) by an average of 19 points per contest in the conference tournament. Green Bay was a combined 41-of-75 from the field in its second halves of play, outscoring its opponents 115-76. Green Bay's defense was consistent throughout the tournament as it gave up 53 points in each of its three games. Green Bay allowed 53 points six times in 2011-12 and held its opponents to less than 55 points in 16 of 33 games.
NCAA TOURNAMENT PLAY... Green Bay joined a list of 20 teams (including Baylor, Stanford, and Delaware this season) who entered the NCAA Tournament with at least 30 wins and no more than one loss. No. 7 seed Green Bay made its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance, marking its fourth consecutive season it appeared in the tournament and second consecutive appearance in second round play.
With Green Bay's appearance in this season's big dance, seniors Julie Wojta and Hannah Quilling have played in more NCAA Tournament games (eight) than any other Phoenix players in the 39-year history of the program, compiling a 4-4 record.
Green Bay led the entire contest in its first round game against No. 10 seed Iowa State (18-13), building its halftime lead to 19 (42-23), its largest lead in an NCAA Tournament game. Its convincing 71-57 win was Green Bay's first on an opponent's home court in an NCAA Tournament contest. Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and Eichler both sank four three pointers, finishing with a game high 16 points while Ritchie and Wojta added 15 and 14 respectively. Junior Stephanie Sension (Hopkins, Minn.) played key minutes for Green Bay, going 4-for-4 from the field in 13 minutes of play.
Down 17 at the half, its largest deficit of the season, against No. 2 seed Kentucky (27-6) in the second round, Green Bay never quit but rather kept fighting just like it had all season. After taking a one-point lead with 1:57 to play, the Phoenix fell 65-62 in what is sure to be remembered as one of the best games in program history.
"The second half is what we are all about," said Quilling after the game. "It is what Green Bay Basketball is all about, and what we want people to remember."
"We've been blessed. I'm so fortunate to coach these young ladies and the way they fought in that second half was indicative of who they are," said Matt Bollant after Green Bay's exit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Wojta and Eichler led the Phoenix with a game high 16 points. Wojta grabbed a program NCAA record 10 steals as the Phoenix defense forced Kentucky a season high 34 turnovers while grabbing 21 steals, both setting program records in NCAA tournament play.
"We pride ourselves on never quitting and giving everything to this team for 40 minutes on the court," said Wojta who broke her nose early in the contest but remained in the game.
RECORD BOOK RESERVATIONS... The 2011-12 season also saw its share of records being broken both on an individual and team basis.
One of the most memorable performances by an individual this season was Wojta's performance at Milwaukee Jan. 7 when the five-time Horizon League Player of the Week grabbed a Horizon League and program record 12 steals, 11 in the first half of play. In the same contest Wojta also scored a game-high 27 points in 25 minutes of play. Wojta finished the season with a program record 127 steals.
Feb. 11 Green Bay hosted Wright State in a Horizon League battle in which Wojta grabbed a Kress Center record 20 rebounds while pouring in a game-high 30 points, becoming the first player in program history to turn in a 30-20 performance. In the same contest, Wojta also set a Kress record with eight steals while tying the record with a career high four blocks.
Wojta concluded her senior campaign setting program individual season records with 252 made field goals and was second in points (644), scoring average (19.5), field goals attempted (491), and rebounds (328). Wojta finishes her career at Green Bay as one of the most decorated players in program history. The Wooden Award finalist ranks fourth on the program's individual career record list with 1,638 points and fifth with 843 rebounds, posting a Division I program record 35 double doubles.
A Wade Trophy finalist and member of the Naismith Watch List, Wojta's 288 career steals ranks third on Green Bay's individual career record list while her free throw percentage (.799) ranks fifth, 290 made free throws ranks sixth, and 363 free throws attempted ranks seventh. Throughout her 124 career games played, Wojta has dished out 378 assists, ranking sixth on Green Bay's career record list along with her 642 made field goals. Wojta's 1,289 attempted field goals and 13.2 points per game scoring average ranks seventh in program history.
Bauer attempted 163 three-point field goals during her junior campaign which ranks third on the program's individual season record list while Ritchie's 148 threes rank seventh. Ritchie's 349 career three-point field goal attempts ranks fifth on Green Bay's individual career record list.
As a team, Green Bay's defense ranked first in program history with a turnover margin of +9.5 while it grabbed 427 steals. Offensively, its scoring margin (+19.2) ranks second in program history along with its 31 wins and winning percentage (.939).
Though the season may have ended with what some consider a "heart-breaking" loss, Green Bay's continuous fight not only in its second round NCAA Tournament game against Kentucky but throughout the season is success in itself.
"Green Bay is exactly what you hope for when you're being recruited," said Quilling who has played 127 career games for the Phoenix. "It's exactly the program you wish kids dream of being a part of, something that's so much bigger than you."
National statistics and final rankings will be released upon the conclusion of the women's NCAA Championship Apr. 3 in Denver, Colo.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on Green Bay Athletics, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com.