Around the Region
WIAC champions, b'gosh!
|Starting at point guard since she was a freshman, Taylor Schmidt has been a cornerstone for Brad Fischer's Oshkosh program.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
The UW-Oshkosh women’s basketball team capped off another successful regular season with its first WIAC title in 11 years.
- Conference tournament trackers: Men | Women
- UW-Oshkosh team pages: Men | Women
- WBB Top 25: Oshkosh moves into Top 10
After their last regular season championship in 2006, the Titans went 22-74 in the conference the next six seasons.
Following a last-place finish in 2012, Oshkosh hired Brad Fischer to turn the program around. The Titans immediately got back on the winning track winning 20 games for the biggest turnaround in WIAC history with a second-place finish in his first season as the head coach.
In nearly five years with Fischer in charge, Oshkosh has been one of the more consistent programs in the country with five 20-win seasons. Under Fischer, the Titans have had a 115-25 overall record, including 60-16 in conference.
The Titans finished in second place in each of their first four seasons under Fischer before finally winning the WIAC last week by edging UW-Whitewater 59-58.
“That was a big deal,” Fischer said. “You could feel the anticipation, and it was exciting that we were in a position to do it at home. For our senior class to go out this way after getting our program back on track, it’s a fitting way for them to cement their legacies here.”
Prior to taking the job, Fischer spent five seasons as the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Division II UW-Parkside after being an assistant at UW-La Crosse.
“You want to coach at a place where you think you can compete for a national championship,” Fischer said. “I felt like even though [Oshkosh] hadn’t been winning, it was a place where you proved you could do that. We have the support from our administration to be one of those teams. When you can sell that dream to recruits, you know you’re one of the best teams in the WIAC and can compete on a national level. There’s not another place in the country for me to be at this level.”
In Fischer’s first season, Oshkosh returned several players who were eager to get the program back into the discussion.
“From day one, they were hungry to get better never lost that throughout the year,” Fischer said. “They set the tone for our program going forward and fortunately we’ve been able to keep things moving.”
One of the big reasons for the Titans’ success over the last four years has been senior Taylor Schmidt, who has never missed a start in 114 career games.
“Taylor is special,” Fischer said. “I have to preface it by saying that the stats don’t show it, and she’s sacrificed a lot of what she could have put up stat wise to be the type of leader that our entire team needs. She’s a winner, an incredible competitor and she’s tough. She’s played hurt for the last couple years, and her competitiveness and her clutch gene that’s something we’ve relied a lot on.”
In addition to her high school and college coaches, Schmidt said her toughness and competitiveness comes from her family early on in her basketball career.
“I had my dad as my coach when I started playing in first grade, and being pushed by him and my uncle Pete as coaches, I had that family support, yet they still pushed me to my maximum,” Schmidt said. When you add all that up, I think that’s what brings out the toughness in me.”
Schmidt played at Algoma High School in Wisconsin, where she won a state title as senior, and she said it felt like Oshkosh coaches were at every one of her high school games in her final year, which ultimately swayed her to play for the Titans.
In one of the games Fischer attended, Schmidt made a game-winning shot against current Oshkosh teammate Alex Richard’s high school team.
“I knew she was good, and she was tough, but I think I even underestimated her competitiveness and how much she wanted to win,” Fischer said.
Though she said she would likely have still gone to Oshkosh regardless, Schmidt said a reason she chose to stay closer to home was because her grandfather died after a regional semifinal game her senior year of high school.
“I just knew I needed to be close to my family because that’s something that I truly cherish and value,” Schmidt said. “Being an hour and half away, I knew it was going to be the right decision.”
Fischer said Schmidt was an important piece to his first full recruiting class as the Titans' head coach.
“I knew she had a chance to be special and one of the better players in the league if we could get her to come to Oshkosh,” Fischer said. “Her career has even exceeded my expectations.”
Schmidt’s ability to start immediately in college made a big impact on the Oshkosh basketball program, including the coach, according to Fischer.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a point guard that can start day one as a freshman and take it all the way through her senior year,” Fischer said. “It makes me a lot better coach, so she will be tough for us to replace. Hopefully I can squeeze a bunch more games out of her yet before her career is done.”
Despite all the regular season and conference success, Oshkosh has reached the Sweet 16 just once under Fischer, but Schmidt said she hopes the Titans can break out and make a run in the NCAA tournament.
“I would love to go out a national champion,” Schmidt said. “It would just be a fairytale ending. I just want to go out knowing that I gave it my all. That last game is going to come eventually, but I just have to lay it all on the line every day until the last game that we play.”
Schmidt said she is proud of what her senior class has been able to do in bringing UW Oshkosh back to prominence.
“I think it’s pretty neat that we were Coach Fischer’s first class,” Schmidt said. “To be able to reflect on the last four years is something I’ll always remember to see how far we’ve come as a team and how we made Oshkosh the new place for basketball.”
With Selection Monday coming up on Feb. 27, several teams in the Central region will try to make their final push for an automatic bid. Here are the dates and times for each conference tournament championship from the region.
WIAC: Saturday, Feb. 25, 3 or 7 p.m.
CCIW: Saturday, Feb. 25, TBA
NACC: Sunday, Feb. 26, 2 p.m.
MWC: Saturday, Feb. 25, 3 p.m.
SLIAC: Saturday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m.
WIAC: Sunday, Feb. 26, 2 p.m.
CCIW: Saturday, Feb. 25 TBA
NACC: Saturday, Feb. 25, TBA
MWC: Saturday, Feb. 25, 3 p.m.
SLIAC: Saturday, Feb. 25, 1 p.m.
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Erik Buchinger is in his fourth year covering Division III sports. He covered a variety of athletics with the Advance Titan, the campus newspaper at UW-Oshkosh where he graduated in spring 2016 with a Journalism major and Radio-TV minor. He is currently a sports and news reporter with the New London/Hortonville Press Star and Clintonville Tribune-Gazette. He has also written for D3football.com and D3baseball and resides in northeast Wisconsin.