There is always a first for everything, especially in the sports world. On March 1, history was made by the Laramie County County Community College women’s basketball team.
For the first time since the 2016 reinstatement of the women’s basketball team, the Golden Eagles have made it to the NJCAA Region IX tournament.
In the team’s first year they won only 11 games and lost the play-in game that would’ve led them to Region IX tournament at Otero Junior College 54-42. The 2016-17 Golden Eagles had a roster of 13 players that were all freshmen. LCCC was the only team in the conference with a roster of only freshmen. It was also head coach Brian Ortmeier’s first time coaching a new program.
Ortmeier helped coach the University of Richmond to a 20-win season and a Women’s National Invitational Tournament appearance. He then coached at Colorado Northwestern Community College before taking over the brand new Golden Eagles. Like women’s soccer coach Jim Gardner and former volleyball coach Austin Albers, Ortmeier had the vision of building the program from scratch.
“We are trying to get into the spotlight and make some noise like other programs around here,” Ortmeier said.
In Ortmeier’s and the Golden Eagles’ second season, they improved to a record of 15-16. With the first year of sophomores on the team, the team was still young and lost once again in the first round to Trinidad State Junior College. The Golden Eagles were ready for the challenge as they led at halftime before TSJC started shooting the ball hot in the second half. The Golden Eagles were led by then-freshman Sarah Kruthaupt, who had a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds. Karli O’Brien was on that team and said she felt that she wouldn’t let the loss in the play-in game happen again while she was at LCCC.
This year was a breakout season for the team, setting a new record for victories with 18 in the regular season. The Golden Eagles went 7-5 on the road. The Golden Eagles hosted the play-in game, a 69-60 win over Central Wyoming College. O’Brien would not let history repeat itself or let the crowd down as the packed Recreation and Athletics Complex saw her score a game-high 25 points. LCCC was down 17-15 after the first quarter but wouldn’t let the slow start phase them as they would go on to beat CWC 69-60. Along with O’Brien, sophomore Gabi O’Connor was hot from the field, shooting 50 percent to score 17 points and added three assists.
Making the Region IX tournament is one milestone on the way to Ortmeier’s overall goal: a nationally recognized women’s basketball program.
“Just having a nationally recognized program so we can get to the level we want, and that we have something special going here,” Ortmeier said.