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intense workout regiment, learned to ….

intense workout regiment, learned to balance her practices and games with school, and by the end of her first year she began to feel more and more like her old self.

She also found herself earning more and more playing time, using her ability to stretch the floor, where she averages nearly 40 percent from three-point range.

“To be honest in college my post game isn’t good, but because I have the ability to stretch the floor, open up the floor for guards, I believe that’s why I had the opportunity to play my freshman year,” she said.

In her first year of college action, Rueth and the Titans enjoyed a 21-6 record, but fell just shy of a WIAC tournament title and NCAA tournament bid, losing to UW-Whitewater 68-65.

The following season Rueth took her game to new levels. She nearly doubled her minutes, and increased her scoring average. The Titans also won the WIAC regular season, exacting their revenge on Whitewater in the conference tournament, defeating the Warhawks 69-40. Oshkosh went 26-4 in 2018-19, and ended their season in the Sweet Sixteen.

If last year’s ending was sweet, the start of the 2019-20 was sour.

“This year was definitely a roller coaster,” Rueth said. “We were predicted to win the conference, we were ranked early on, and then we lost two games at a tournament. After that I would say that we panicked.”

The truth was the Titans had lost five seniors to graduation, were bringing in a new assistant coach, and had just two new recruits on campus. Team numbers were so low that coach Fischer held open try-outs just so Oshkosh had enough players to practice against.

The Titans were up and down in the first part of the 2019-20 season, and soon found themselves below .500.

The turning point came in the middle of January after Oshkosh lost a pair of close games to Eau Claire and Stout. The losses were made more jarring as Oshkosh held leads in each game.

Rueth knew that if her team was going to salvage the season, things would have to change, and change quickly.

Head coach’s daughter

Karsyn and Mike Rueth have always enjoyed a very up front and honest relationship as father-daughter. There may have been moments of stony silence, but they were always on the same page.

“Having my dad as my coach held a lot of pros and a lot of cons,” Karsyn said. “I would say, and he would agree, that he had way higher expectations for me than anyone else, which was good because it pushed me to be better.”

Karsyn appreciated the prodding, but admitted growing up with your dad as your coach can be tough. It also meant that when the time came, she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

“I think with my dad being my coach, if there’s something on my mind that I think our coach needs to hear, I’m not afraid to say it,” she said.

That trait came in handy this season, when Karsyn approached her head coach and told him the season was going in the wrong direction. Coach Fischer agreed, and the team held a private meeting behind closed doors. It was a hard meeting, and painful at times, but Rueth felt that it was necessary.

“We said we couldn’t handle the pressure,” Rueth recalls. “We said this can’t happen if we want to win games. We held accountability. After we had that conversation we started becoming who we are and who we knew we could be. That’s when we went on our run.”

Two tourneys, one title

After the meeting the Titans did a complete 180. Suddenly, the Titans were winning, and doing it as a team. Oshkosh rattled off wins over La Crosse and Stevens Point, and then a month after dropping a 77-71 double overtime loss to UW-Stout, the Titans got their revenge.

It was Rueth who did the damage, scoring 16 points in a 54-36 dismantling of the Blue Devils. By the time the WIAC tournament came around, the Titans were rolling, “Going into the tournament it was revenge week,” Rueth said. The Titans began their game with a second straight win over Stout, and then took on a talented Whitewater squad in the semifinals.

The Warhawks had won the regular season title, were ranked fifth in the NCAA D-III polls, and expected to win the WIAC tournament.

But Rueth trusted in her teammates, and knew they could win the title. It helped that Whitewater gave them some added ammunition.

“They had a sign on their locker room door that said ‘Locker room closed for WIAC Championship.’ We whipped their butts by 20,” Rueth said.

In the finals Oshkosh took on Eau Claire, and it was a tight contest. For the Titans, this was familiar territory, not so for Eau Claire, who had not won the WIAC tournament in over a decade.

“Going into that game I was not nervous because we were playing well and I did not have any nerves. We had been in those moments before, so it wasn’t scary for us, but it was scary for them,” she said.

Oshkosh navigated the nerves, and prevailed over Eau Claire 52-50. The victory not only netted the Titans a tournament championship, it gave them an automatic ticket into the Big Dance.

The numbers game

The Titans opened up the NCAA tournament against Edgewood College out of Madison. Edgewood boasted a 25-2 recording coming into the contest, but it was the Titans who played like a ranked team, defeating Edgewood 61-40.

A second round clash with Bethany Lutheran awaited, with a trip to the Sweet 16 going to the victor. The game was eerily reminiscent of Rueth’s 2017 state title game.

The numbers 46, 10 and 12 came up just as they had three years ago. Like her state title game, Rueth’s team was down 12 points with 10 minutes to play, thanks to a 46-point surge from Bethany Lutheran in the second and third quarters.

Did Rueth and the Titans panic? Of course not.

Even down double digits with minutes to play, Rueth knew her team was going to win.

“My team knows how that game went,” Rueth said. “In that game we went down and we called a time-out, we took a deep breath ‘We said we got this, we’re fine.’” Against Bethany Lutheran, it was the same thing. They took a time out, came out of the huddle and got down to business, overcoming the double digit deficit to notch a 67-61 victory.

“The similarities between the teams is we are all fighters,” Rueth said. “We don’t back down and we play until the horn buzzes.”

The curse of COVID

The Titans season came to an abrupt end in 2020, but it had nothing to do with anything on the court. Rueth and her teammates were in Michigan, and had just finished practice. They were hoping to play Loras College the next day for a place in the Elite Eight, but it was not to be.

Coach Fischer held an impromptu meeting and quietly and sadly told the team their season was over, that the coronavirus meant there would be no more games.

“To have it end there from something that was out of our control was really devastating,” Rueth said. “We were so happy with how far we’ve come this year, but we all wanted more.”

Rueth is home now, where she is already looking forward to next year. She is hopeful that in her final year the Titans can do even better than a Sweet 16.

Rueth also thinks back to that day three years ago when she nearly abandoned the game of basketball.

“When I started playing basketball in third grade, I fell in love with it then,” she said. “I was in love with it in high school, and it was my dream to play at the next level.

“It’s been harder than I expected, but now that I am in my senior year, every single bump and obstacle has taught me so much ... you get so many life lessons and learn so much about yourself that will impact you for life.”