For an undefeated team, the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team has been hit with a series of losses in the early going.
At 4-0, the Badgers are off to the program’s best start in 12 years. And they’ve done it despite suffering a string of injuries — some major, some minor — since before practice even officially started.
It started when Carmen Backes, arguably the most promising member of the freshman class, was sidelined by a knee injury that almost certainly will cause her to redshirt this season.
Several players were banged up during preseason practice but were able to get back in time for when the games started, but junior Suzanne Gilreath (foot) and freshman Jasmine Hale (finger) have yet to play.
Then redshirt senior Lexy Richardson reinjured a knee in the closing seconds of the opener against Winthrop and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
That was followed by perhaps the biggest blow when junior Courtney Fredrickson, a two-year starter, went down with a knee injury in Game 2 at Milwaukee and will miss the rest of the season.
But the good news for coach Jonathan Tsipis is Gilreath and Hale are expected to return sometime this weekend as the Badgers travel to Nashville to play in the Challenge in the Music City.
“At least some people are on the mend, which is nice,” coach Jonathan Tsipis said.
Tsipis wasn’t sure if either Gilreath or Hale would be cleared to play in the first game against Pittsburgh (2-3) on Friday but he was confident they’d both see action in the three-game event. UW will play host to Tennessee State (0-4) on Saturday and Arkansas (2-1) on Sunday.
“Obviously, we’d rather be healthier going into this, but we see it as another chance to get better,” Tsipis said.
Gilreath, a 5-foot-4 guard, is a known commodity after leading the team in 3-pointers in each of her first two seasons. She will be counted on to provide a perimeter threat, an area that has been bolstered by the addition of Kelly Karlis and Alex Luehring this season.
Hale, a 5-9 guard from Cincinnati, had impressed during the early practices before suffering a broken pinky finger on her right hand. She will have to play with a splint at least for a while.
“She’s a different level of athlete,” Tsipis said. “With her build she’s somebody who’s going to get bounced around a little bit, but she handles the ball well and she’s a capable scorer. I think she plays bigger than her size defensively because of her length.”
The roster also will have an addition and a subtraction. Sydney Mathiason, a freshman from Monroe, will join the team as a walk-on after serving as a team manager. Mathiason, a 6-1 forward, averaged 10.8 points and 7.9 rebounds as a senior for the Cheesemakers, where she was a teammate of 2019 recruit Sydney Hilliard.
Tsipis said freshman Maia Caito, a 6-4 post player from Cranston, Rhode Island, is leaving the program. She did not dress for any of the games and was not on the bench for the past two games. She plans to remain in school, Tsipis said.