ASHWAUBENON — The state title is secure, but there’s hope this could be only the beginning for the Green Bay Notre Dame girls basketball team.
The first two years of Sara Rohde’s tenure as Tritons coach have resulted in the program’s first back-to-back state tournament appearances and first state title since 2001.
The Tritons graduate four seniors who all played significant minutes this season, including second-leading scorer Brianna Byrne, but return University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit Allie LeClaire, junior Eliza Campbell and her freshman sister, Olivia.
Despite the losses, the foundation appears on solid ground with Rohde’s predecessor, Bill Farrell, still involved with the junior varsity program and 12 players who’ll return next season with gold medals around their necks.
“The sophomores and freshmen, and the twins (Kayla and Carli Borseth) can hit any shot when they’re open,” said Campbell, who was the team’s third-leading scorer this season. “We’re obviously going to miss B.B. (Byrne) a lot and Anika is always there when we need her. It’ll be different, but I think we’ll be able to adjust.”
A two-time state runner-up at Rapid River (Mich.) High School, Rohde joined her players in the jubilation of winning that first state title on Saturday night.
During her own high school career, Rohde lost a pair of state-championship games by a combined three points before going on to a 1,000-point career at UWGB.
Now that she’s captured that elusive crown, she’ll enter next season looking to build even further.
“I think as a player, it’s a different feeling,” Rohde said. “I told the girls before the game I wanted them to have the opportunity to hold the gold ball above her head because in my playing days in high school I was runner-up two years in state and never got the gold medal. This is my first gold medal per say … so it’s kind of come full circle.”
Volleyball is Anika Johnson’s primary sport, but she gladly accepted the long-awaited trip to a state tournament at the Resch Center as a member of the basketball team.
Johnson and the Tritons’ volleyball team had plenty of close calls over the past few years — including back-to-back sectional finals losses during her sophomore and junior years — but never were able to make it to Green Bay, which hosts the girls volleyball tournament in the fall.
Johnson is planning to stick with volleyball in college, but couldn’t be more pleased with how her basketball career closed.
"It was amazing being so close so many times for volleyball,” said Johnson, who’s planning to play volleyball in college. “That’s my main sport, so I played basketball this year not expecting the same kind of experience with the same goal, I guess. It’s just amazing because I wasn’t expecting it and coming this far and finally get to the Resch and play and win.”
Keeping it in the family
Three rows behind the Notre Dame bench on Saturday was UWGB coach Kevin Borseth and his family as he watched his twin daughters, Carli and Kayla, in the state title game.
A former player of Borseth’s at UWGB, the roles have reversed now as his children now are being groomed in Rohde’s program.
It truly has come full circle for Rohde, coaching and instilling some of the same things to his daughters that she learned from him when she was at UWGB. It’s something that she truly enjoys because of her strong relationship with the entire Borseth clan.
But she does see the irony in it all.
“It’s funny, it really is, that they moved back here and now they (his daughters) come to Notre Dame,” Rohde said. “It’s fun though, the girls are great and I love their family and I’ve always had a good relationship with the Borseth’s.”