The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team saw its season come to an end with an 86-58 defeat to No. 21 Drake on Friday afternoon at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Ill. Valpo fought back with a strong second quarter, but couldn’t climb out of an early hole. After picking up a Senior Day win over Loyola and a first-round tournament victory over Indiana State, Valpo’s seniors played their final game in a Valpo uniform on Friday. This senior class became the first in program history to win a conference tournament game in all four seasons.
How It Happened
- After Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) scored the first field goal of the game to tie the contest at two early on, Drake (26-5) went on a 14-0 run to open up a 16-2 lead and force a Valpo timeout with 2:57 left in the opening quarter.
- The run continued until Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) knocked in three free throws after being fouled shooting a 3 with 1:20 left in the first quarter, stopping the 18-0 spurt.
- Valpo (8-24) was held to just 1-of-13 (7.7 percent) from the field including 0-of-7 from beyond the arc in the opening quarter.
- Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis. / Hortonville) nailed a 3 on an assist from Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake) at the 9:01 mark of the second quarter for Valpo’s first triple of the game. Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) also converted from distance early in the second period.
- Valpo continued to have a variety of players nail 3-pointers as Allison Schofield (McCordsville, Ind. / Heritage Christian), Stoller and Hales all did so in a two-minute span to cut the lead to 36-20 and force a Drake timeout with 1:47 left in the second quarter.
- The 3s kept falling after the Bulldog timeout, as Stoller tacked on another. After going 0-of-7 from distance in the first quarter, Valpo heated up to the tune of 6-for-11 from 3-point land in the second. Stoller led the team with eight first-half points, helping Valpo score 18 second-quarter points after the team had five in the first.
- Valpo outscored Drake 21-20 in the third quarter as Stoller scored seven points and Hales had nine. The team hit four of its eight 3-point tries in that period.
- Senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich. / Notre Dame Prep) got in on the act from beyond the arc as she knocked down a 3 with 2:15 remaining in the fourth, then she added a basket with 1:29 to go to quickly rack up five points.
Inside the Game
- Stoller rounded out the season with the fourth double-double of her career as she racked up 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Stoller finished as the team’s leading scorer (12.8 ppg) and rebounder (6.6 rpg).
- Hales scored 15 points including 6-of-6 at the free-throw line to share the team lead against Drake. She finished the season with an .859 free-throw percentage, which ranks third in program history.
- Valpo finished the season sixth in Valley history in 3-point field goals in a season. The 276 made 3s set the program record. The team finished the season with more points on 3-pointers (828) than 2-pointers (810). In the season finale, Valpo scored eight points on 2s and 39 on 3s. With 837 attempted 3-pointers, Valpo set the program record and ranked third in Valley history.
- The team knocked down 13 3-pointers in the game, tied for the third most in a game in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
- Frederick handed out seven assists to lead the team, one shy of her career high, which came on Feb. 1 vs. Bradley.
- Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill. / Montini) swiped three steals in just 14 minutes of action.
- Valpo shot well at the free-throw line, going 11-of-12 (91.7 percent).
Inside the Careers
- Schofield scored 12 points on Friday to close out her collegiate career with a 4-of-9 shooting showing the featured three made 3s. She ended on a high note with her highest scoring output since Feb. 3, when she posted a career-high 22. Schofield saw a significant uptick in playing time this year as a senior, seeing action in 23.6 minutes per game and averaging 7.0 points per contest while shooting 34.2 percent from beyond the arc, second on the team.
- Carlson’s five points (in only three minutes) matched a career high, established on Jan. 20 vs. Evansville. She finished her college athletics career in style after four years as a volleyball standout and one as a basketball walk-on.
- Hannah Schaub (Brooklyn Park, Minn. / Park Center) finished her career with 289 assists, which ranks ninth in program history. She missed the end of her senior season, including Friday’s game against Drake, with an injury.
- Hamlet finished her college tenure fifth in program history in career scoring with 1,350 points. She also ranks among Valpo’s career leaders in the following categories: made 3-pointers (210, fourth), assists (260, 12th), field goal attempts (1,173; fifth), made free throws (249, seventh), 3-point field goals attempts (623, third), free-throw percentage (.766, fifth) and games played (123, second). She played in 123 of Valpo’s 125 games over the last four years and started 121.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mary Evans
“I’m really proud of the team and the effort they gave today. It’s always hard to play two games in less than 24 hours, but we came out and fought. We got down early and did a tremendous job fighting back. They stayed together. All I can ask is for our players to give 100 percent all of the time, and they did that today. It’s a special group of young ladies who continue to play, work and fight for each other. It’s been a real joy to coach them this year.”
“Any time you play one of the best teams in the conference, that’s the standard. Drake has been the standard in this league for a lot of years. That’s what we’re striving for at Valparaiso. It helps a lot that we’d like to play a similar style. There are great lessons to be learned from playing a team like Drake, and it’s a measuring bar. We’ve played them three times and the margins have all been large, but we’ve played them close in nine of the 12 quarters. That’s a way for us to build some confidence that we’re moving in the right direction. For me, it’s a great opportunity to see where we need to go with our recruiting as we head into the recruiting season. It’s a very different league than the league I came from. The MAC is a good league, but it’s different from The Valley. This gives us an idea on where we need to go with all of that moving forward.”
“We’ve grown a lot this year. Sometimes perspective is a nice thing. I often try to think back to the first couple workouts with the team, and that makes me smile. I brought in a completely different system both offensively and defensively, and it was a mess. The first couple workouts, you were scratching your head. We had a long way to go. The growth this team has had in understanding what we want to do offensively and defensively is tremendous. We have a whole other step to take, and that will start with our postseason workouts, but I’m really proud of how open they were to learning. They did a tremendous job learning and growing every day. That’s all you can ask. That’s what the season is about. Then you get to play games, and those are your tests. Sometimes you pass your tests, and sometimes you fail your tests. When you fail your tests, you have to learn from the mistakes and grow from it. This team has continued to do that game after game. For that, I’m very proud of them. I’m fortunate to have this as my first team. We faced a ton of adversity this year with injuries, and it’s only going to make us stronger, but it’s still tough to go through. We’re going to take all the adversity we went through this year, and we’re going to grow from it. It’s going to make us a better team in the long run.”