With their 87-80 defeat to the Minnesota Gophers Wednesday in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, the Milwaukee Panthers season is now over. Initial sadness being felt by players and coaches should soon fade. Replacing that sadness should be the overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment.
The 2015-16 Milwaukee Panthers were predicted to do very little by the media and their peers around the conference. Who could blame them though? The Panthers were set to be one of the youngest teams in the conference and had just lost their leading scorer to graduation. But man did the Panthers prove them wrong.
Despite being predicted to finish second-last in the Horizon, the Panthers excelled throughout the season. In the regular season, Milwaukee finished second in the conference totaling a 12-6 conference record. In the process, the Panthers found a cast of bona fide scorers headed by their tremendous young coach, Kyle Rechlicz.
At 19-12 (12-6 Horizon), the Panthers earned a berth in postseason play for the first time in 10 years. Milwaukee also improved on their season win total by nine. Rechlicz won the Panthers’ first Coach of the Year award in the last decade as well. Steph Kostowicz was also named First Team All-Conference, and she is just a sophomore. The future is bright for the Panthers.
With a new sense of belief after this year’s success and all the talent to build off of it, the 2016-17 season looks to be a bountiful one for the Panthers. The Panthers will return eight of their leading scorers next year, including three players who averaged in double-digits this season. The Panthers also return Rechlicz, who has seemed to put Milwaukee on the Horizon League map. With an electric young cast and newfound confidence, 2015-16 might go down as the season that turned it all around for the Milwaukee Panthers women’s basketball program.