Women’s Basketball claims regional championship; looks ahead to Elite Eight


GVL / Sydney Lim

Justice Steiner, Staff Writer

Building on their historic season, the Grand Valley State University (30-2) women’s basketball team secured their fourth NCAA Regional Championship in school history after defeating Walsh University (28-5) by a score of 64-61. 

“It was a lot of excitement (to win the regional championship),” said coach Mike Williams. “I don’t think it was a relief because I’m not sure we expected to win that or were expected to win it. I think people were genuinely excited for each other, and for their team and what we accomplished.”

Trailing by one at halftime, sophomore guard Ellie Droste provided a huge spark in the second half, scoring all 19 of her points in the third and fourth quarters. Picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, Droste was forced to sit the remainder of the first half. 

“I got in some really bad foul trouble in the first three minutes of the game, so I didn’t play at all in the first half,” Droste said. “Coming into the second half, I knew I had to step up for my teammates.” 

Perhaps the most important play from Droste came with 1:50 remaining in the contest, as she hit an NBA-range three-point basket from near the logo. 

“I didn’t even realize how far back I was,” Droste said. “ I remember Hannah (Kulas) passed it to me and I shot it. It didn’t look like it was necessarily going to go in at first, but when it went in, I was just really excited obviously.”

She then went on to hit two free throws and a layup to help close out the game. Her performance helped earn her Midwest Region MVP for her output in the first three games of the NCAA tournament. 

Droste said she was surprised that she received the award and didn’t know it was even something that was given out.

“When they called my name, I was really shocked and I was excited because that was an awesome award to receive, and I was honored that I got that,” Droste said. 

Along with Droste, senior guard Emily Spitzley finished with 10 points, two rebounds and a steal, while junior forward Hannah Kulas chipped in with seven points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Coming into the region as the no. 2 seed, the Lakers did have a bit of extra motivation as many within the GVSU community believed they deserved the no. 1 seed and the chance to host the Midwest Region.

“Obviously you want to host regionals, you want to be at home,” Williams said. “But I thought it was a good thing for us — get away from here, maybe not as much pressure, and maybe a little bit of, ‘yeah, you guys think you are no. 1, here is your chance to prove it,’ and I think they did.”

Now in the Elite Eight, the Lakers are once again the no. 2 seed and will match up against no. 7 seed, Missouri Western University (24-9). 

GVSU will look to continue their impressive defense, as the Lakers have been the top scoring defense in the nation for the majority of the year, only allowing 49.8 ppg. 

“Coach (Williams) puts so much time into our defense during our practices, it is the majority of our practice,” said sophomore guard Hadley Miller. “Leading up to games we practice defense specifically for the team that we are going to play a couple of days before and we just rep that out and he gives us really good cues to follow.”

Miller has been a key contributor on the defensive end this season, being selected to the Defensive All-GLIAC team and totaling 30 steals and nine blocks on the year.

Although an individual accomplishment, Miller said the team as a whole has allowed her to find success on the defensive end this season. 

“We play defense as a whole, obviously,” Miller said. “So having my teammates have my back when I do mess up or when a shooter does beat me around a screen and is driving to the hoop, knowing that I have that help on defense allows me to stick to the basics and really give in to what coach Mike is coaching us.”

GVSU will have to keep up the impressive work on the defensive end, as they are matching up against an MWU team that averages nearly 75 points per game on the season. 

Williams said not overcomplicating things and remaining rested has been the key heading into the final stretch of the tournament.

“We’re going to keep things simple,” Williams said. “We’re going to stay doing the things we do — keep the game plan simple because you are playing people you haven’t played before, prep time isn’t huge and we want to keep our bodies fresh.”

The Lakers will take on the Griffons at the Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham, Alabama on March 21.