Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Seniors remain standing after team falls

Five years ago the seniors on this year’s women’s basketball team were being recruited by head coach Jane Albright. Now, four years later, they will be ending their UW careers alongside their coach.

Kristi Seeger and Leah Hefte came to UW when the women’s basketball program was at its peak. The Badgers had five consecutive winning seasons under Albright and had been the runner-up in the previous season’s WNIT. In their first year at UW they would play limited roles in helping win the WNIT, but that would prove to be their biggest postseason accomplishment.

It would have been hard to imagine after that season’s WNIT Championship that these two basketball players would be sitting in the front car of the craziest ride the UW women’s basketball team has ever been on.


“It really has been a roller coaster, but I think the best part about that is how well everyone has kept together,” Seeger said.

Seeger began her career at UW in 1999 when she saw limited playing time off the bench due to Badger injuries. She managed to finish the season with single-game career highs with eight points and six rebounds, and she made big contributions during the team’s WNIT title run.

“Everyone has their ‘A’ game when they come and play in those tournaments,” Seeger Said. “It’s fun playing at that level.”

In her sophomore year Seeger earned Academic All-Big Ten honors while coming off the bench to average 10.5 minutes per game. It was in her junior year, though, that she played well enough to start for the Badgers, doing so in 21 games. She averaged nearly four points and four rebounds per game and had developed her playing skills to fit into coach Albright’s system.

This season Seeger was named one of three co-captains along with Leah Hefte and junior Emily Ashbaugh. The senior took on the role of team leader and helped the younger players develop their skills.

“My role has changed dramatically this year,” Seeger said. “I have to score more, and I’m on the floor 30-plus minutes a game.”

Over the season she averaged a career high 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and had her career highs in points and rebounds.

That career day came against Illinois after returning to the lineup from a stress fracture in her left leg. Playing a rejuvenated style of basketball, she recorded a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Out of the lineup from Dec. 14 through Jan. 7, the forward watched as the Badgers lost four straight games in her absence.

“Everyone is giving us excuses this season you know, we’re a young team, we had injuries, but we haven’t bought into that at all,” Seeger said. “We come out every game and we want to win every game.”

Senior Leah Hefte has faced much of the same difficulties throughout her four years at UW. She came off the bench her freshman year as a three-point shooter. She shot at a .391 percentage and had a career-high 12 points in a WNIT tournament game.

In her junior year, Hefte became a top reserve and had a career day against Minnesota on Feb. 21, 2002. She made 6-of-9 shots including 5-of-8 three pointers to score 19 points before injuring her ankle.

This season, Hefte has averaged just 3.5 points per game in a season marred by a major injury. She missed 10 games in the heart of the season with a dislocated shoulder that has limited her playing time ever since.

“I think I’ve matured a lot,” Hefte said in summation of her four years at UW. “Just from meeting new people and going places, I’ve learned so much about myself and who I am and what I want to do in life.”

Amidst a season full of injuries, both Seeger and Hefte played their final Kohl Center game on a Senior Day that saw the Badgers lose 76-59 in what was one final hill in their roller coaster careers.

“You can’t really change what happens,” Seeger said about being injured. “It’s not like I had a goal to score a certain number of points, [it was] just to work as hard as I could and I think I accomplished that.”

After working hard to win the WNIT in their freshman seasons, the Badgers earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament and a first-round date with No. 10 Missouri the next year. The Badgers lost the game 71-68, but finished the final rankings as the 25th team in the nation.

The 2001-2002 Badger season could certainly be described as tumultuous. The team won 15 straight games and was ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation before losing 11 of their last 14 games. The Badgers still managed to gain an NCAA tournament bid, but failed to make it past the first round, losing to Arizona State 73-70. It was the second straight season that UW was upset in the first round of the tournament, and for Seeger, Hefte and Albright, it would be their last.

Alongside Jessica Liegel, Hefte and Seeger will be the last graduating class that Albright will see at UW. Their coach will resign, the players will graduate and the program will continue to bring in new talent in 2003.

“She gave me the opportunity to play here, she’s been there for me, been very encouraging and she’s never given up on me,” Seeger said about Albright. “She’s really helped me develop my game and told me what I needed to work on.”

This season has not been anything like the dream ending that these seniors had imagined. They will leave UW not even coming close to achieving their biggest goal of winning an NCAA Championship.

Starting the 2002-2003 season 2-12, the Badgers were cast to the ranks of the bottom of the Big Ten. They remained in the bottom one-third of the conference for the entire season and will enter the Big Ten tournament as huge underdogs.

Fortunately for Seeger and Hefte, college has always been about more important things than basketball. For these seniors their memories and education is what will keep them in the game the rest of their lives.

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