COLLEGE SPOTLIGHT / WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
Wisconsin-Superior forward Hannah Norlin described the Yellowjackets' game on Jan. 5 at Bethany Lutheran as a dream.
A really bad dream.
Adding insult to injury, Norlin had to watch much of the game from the bench after fouling out in the third quarter. She couldn't help but feel a little helpless as the Yellowjackets fell 72-60 for their first conference loss since joining the UMAC in 2015-16.
"I wasn't happy, that's for sure," Norlin said. "I cheered on my teammates as hard as I could and hoped they did their best, but it wasn't too fun."
Norlin and Co. plan on using that loss as motivation for the rest of the season. Counting the postseason tournament, the Yellowjackets had gone 59-0 in UMAC games up until that point, including three straight regular-season and postseason titles.
"We didn't come with our best play," Norlin said. "There's nothing you can do about the calls, that can happen in any game, but you can control how you play. We just have to move on and realize it didn't end our season or anything."
UWS (15-2 overall, 7-1 UMAC) has since rattled off three straight wins as Norlin, a 6-foot senior forward from Litchfield, Minn., has enjoyed her best season, averaging 17.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Norlin's numbers are down a bit since the Yellowjackets got into conference play, but coach Zach Otto-Fisher said that's to be expected given the attention she has received, as well as the previously mentioned foul trouble. Other games, she doesn't play as much because it's a rout, and UWS features a deep squad.
"We're in conference play, and everyone knows who Hannah Norlin is over the last four years," Otto-Fisher said. "She's getting double and triple teamed in the paint. Teams are throwing two or three girls at her every night. Against Bethany Lutheran, they exploited our weaknesses, and we didn't adjust well, but I just don't think we were mentally locked into that game.
"After the game, we talked as a team, and said, 'Girls, we can either pout, and sit here and complain, or we can regroup and be ready for the next games,' and Hannah was fired up. Our whole team was."
Norlin said she is a quiet until you get to know her, but she has developed into a tough and fiery captain for the Yellowjackets.
At Litchfield, Norlin was a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and was good at volleyball and golf. She received NCAA Division III interest from the likes of Augsburg, Wisconsin-River Falls and St. Kate's, but flew under the recruiting radar a bit, perhaps because her high school team never made the state tournament.
Norlin visited UWS twice and wasn't initially sold on the Twin Ports.
"I didn't want to come here at first," she said. "I thought it was too industrial at first, but I ended up falling in love with it."
In the meantime, the left-hander has worked hard to develop her skills,
Otto-Fisher has known Norlin the past eight or nine years after spending three seasons as the head girls basketball coach at Glencoe-Silver Lake High School.
Otto-Fisher said Norlin isn't the same player she was coming out of high school.
"The way she is playing right now is not the way she played as a freshman. She has put in the hours and just worked so hard to get good at it," Otto-Fisher said. "As a freshman, she was a lefty who went left.
"You don't have to have five moves in college. You can have two or three moves and be really good at it, and that's what she is. She has the up-and-under. She has the jump shot. She has added range to her jumper, and this year she has worked so hard adding her right hand to elevate her game."
Norlin has elevated her game to the point where she was named national player of the week earlier this season by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association after a monster three-game stretch, including 21 points, five rebounds, five blocks and two steals in a 58-50 victory over NCAA Division II Bemidji State.
That's an honor that would have been unfathomable for this program to receive 10 years ago. Now, honors and accolades and winning streaks are expected.
"A streak can't go on forever, I understand that, but that was my first conference loss in four years," Norlin said. "That was different. I didn't really have anything to say, but the streak doesn't change any of our goals. It wasn't something we kept track of. We noticed we were at 40 or 50, but it wasn't something we talked about or took pride in. Honestly, I think it will be a refresher for the team. I'd rather have this loss now than at the end of the season."