Emily Miller, a 2016 DeForest graduate, was set to close out her collegiate basketball career in style when COVID-19 brought the season to an abrupt end.
Miller, a senior, was in Michigan with her UW-Oshkosh teammates preparing to compete in a NCAA Division III Sweet 16 game when the tournament was cancelled.
“It was an emotional time,” Miller said. “We didn’t know what to do.”
The Titans were set to face Loras College in Holland, Michigan on March 13.
They had just got done with a noon practice and returned to the team hotel for dinner when coach Brad Fischer summoned the team to his room for a talk. He then informed his players that the NCAA had canceled the rest of the tournament.
“We knew it was not going to be a good talk after we got the message from him,” Miller said. “He didn’t know what to say, but our season was over. We were all stunned.”
Initially, Miller and the Titans were upset by the announcement, because not as much was known about the seriousness of the pandemic at the time.
“We were upset because other things were going on, like the high school state tournament,” Miller said. “Looking at it now, I understand why they cancelled it. But at the time, it was hard to make sense of why they did it.”
The cancellation meant Miller, who is one of two seniors on UW-Oshkosh’s roster, would never step on the court again.
“It is crazy to think my final basketball moment was a practice and not a game,” Miller said.
The Titans had been playing their best basketball of the season heading into the Sweet 16 game.
After an up-and-down regular season, UW-Oshkosh got hot at the right time. They earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament title. They defeated UW-Eau Claire 52-50 in the championship game.
“At the beginning of the season, we couldn’t put it all together and didn’t finish games,” Miller said. “But, we got close as a team at the end of the season. We then started to mesh well and everything clicked when we needed to.”
The Titans opened the Division III tournament with a 61-40 victory over Edgewood College and then earned a spot in the Sweet 16 with a 67-60 win over Bethany Lutheran College.
“The hardest part is knowing we don’t get a chance to finish the job,” Miller said. “We had a great opportunity to get past the Sweet 16. We were playing our best basketball at the time.”
It was the second straight year and third time in four years the Titans advanced to the Sweet 16.
Once they were informed of the cancellation of the tournament, Miller and the Titans headed back to Wisconsin right away.
“It was hard to process everything as a team because we left right away,” Miller said.
Once back on campus, Miller packed up her stuff and headed back to her parent’s in DeForest.
“Everything happened so fast,” Miller said. “I didn’t get a chance to say good bye to a lot of my teammates.”
After seeing limited action in her first three years with the Titans, Miller played in 30 games as a senior. She earned the start in 19 games.
This season, Miller averaged 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
“I’m extremely happy with how things went in my four years,” Miller said. “To go to the Sweet 16 three times in four years is unheard of. I have no regrets. I loved everything about it.”
Miller, who is majoring in marketing and minoring in insurance and risk management and Spanish, is scheduled to graduate in May. She will finish her course work online.
“Our graduation has already been cancelled and that is very disappointing,” Miller said. “But, it is understandable under the circumstances. We just have to make the best of it.”