Hannah Skibba sees the end coming.
The lone Assumption senior will put on her Royals uniform for the last time for today’s WIAA Division 5 championship game.
The situation for freshmen Gena Grunhoffer and Macie Zurfluh is considerably different. They are preparing for the biggest game of their young basketball careers. And there’s a chance for many more to come.
All three girls are experiencing the pinnacle of athletic accomplishment, but their views are different, mainly because of their ages.
“Basketball has been important in my life for a long time, but even as a junior I didn’t think about it ending and now it’s always on my mind,” Skibba said. “Coach (Ryan) Klein came up to me at practice and asked me if I realized it was my last practice and I said, ‘Yes, but don’t remind me.’
“Because I’m the only senior, I’ve become close to the underclassmen,” Skibba added. “The juniors have been absolutely amazing and this year has been more exciting and gratifying that I ever could have imagined.”
Skibba wasn’t sure what to expect when her friend and former teammate Emily Freundl transferred away from Assumption, leaving her as the lone senior on the squad.
“I knew I was going to be the senior leader and it was my job to get everyone ready for this year,” Skibba said. “Losing to Newman last year was really disappointing and I wanted to work extra hard this year because we always hear about how good Assumption girls basketball is and we haven’t been to state in a while.”
Today does not mark the first time Assumption (27-1) will play Barneveld (27-1) at the state tournament. The Royals last trip to state was 2005, when they lost to Barneveld in a Division 4 semifinal. Before that, Assumption won Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association titles in 1998 and 1999, long before the current players were playing basketball.
The teams play at 11:05 a.m. at the Resch Center.
The state experience for Grunhoffer and Zurfluh is new, fun and exciting. And depending on the outcome of today’s championship, could bring about a high expectations for the future.
“I think a lot of people will expect us to get back here next year because we’re only losing one senior in Hannah and a lot of other teams are losing more,” Zurfluh said. “We’re going to have to work even harder next year to get better and improve.”
Zurfluh is usually the first girl off the bench, but Grundhoffer has been starting since early in the season and is thankful for Skibba’s leadership.
“She’s been an amazing leader,” said Grundhoffer, who scored 15 points in the Royals’ win over Newman on Thursday. “Hannah organized the summer leagues and got us into the weight room before school. She told us all the rules and told us what our expectations were.
“She’s been so good to the underclassmen and I appreciate everything she’s done for us.”
Win or lose in the championship it’s going to be an emotional day for the Royals senior leader.
“I’m going to play basketball in college, but this is my last game with my girls and with coach (Joe) Birkhauser, who’s camps I gone to since I was in first grade,” Skibba said. “I’ll cry win or lose tomorrow because it will be my last game and I couldn’t have gotten here without my teammates.”