Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather has the Raiders one win away from the first regular-season title in school history. KEITH COLE / CONTRIBUTED

Wright State women on cusp of history

But even that pales against the type of history the Raiders can make Friday.

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If WSU (22-6, 14-2 Horizon League) can beat Wisconsin-Green Bay at 5 p.m. at the Nutter Center, the Raiders not only will clinch the first regular-season title in school history, they will end the 18-year run of dominance by the Phoenix.

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“It probably makes me pretty boring, but we don’t really talk about it a lot,” WSU coach Katrina Merriweather said. “I think that’s the best way for our kids not to be distracted. It’s the best way for them to be focused.

“But they can read,” she added. “They know what’s going on.”

Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather has the Raiders one win away from the first regular-season title in school history. KEITH COLE / CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Staff Writer

Green Bay (22-5, 13-3) beat Wright State 62-41 at the Kress Center on Dec. 31, so another win Friday would complete a regular-season sweep and give the Phoenix the tiebreaker advantage for the title and No. 1 seed at next week’s league tournament.

Green Bay has swept the Raiders in each of the previous 12 seasons and has won 29 of 30 overall, with the Raiders’ lone victory coming in the 2014 championship game.

The Phoenix lead the all-time series 58-4.

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“I don’t know if it’s an awe factor, but there is definitely a lot of respect,” Merriweather said of the Phoenix, who in addition to winning the previous 18 regular-season titles have captured five of the last six tournament titles and 14 of 19.

“When you hang all those banners, there’s an expectation of excellence,” she added. “It’s something we all are striving for. We’re going to tie our shoes up just like they are, and we’re going to roll the ball out and do the best we can.”

Wright State’s record winning streak, which ended Monday with an 85-80 loss at Detroit, began with the first game after the Dec. 31 loss at Green Bay. And it was about midway through that run when the Raiders moved past the Phoenix into first place.

“While it was great that we jumped into first, there was no guarantee that was how it was going to end,” Merriweather said. “The way our schedule is set up, playing Detroit (picked to finish second), Green Bay (first) and Milwaukee (third) to finish the season, we knew none of this was going to play out until the end. To the very, very end.”

Wright State junior guard Chelsea Welch leads the Horizon League in scoring at 20.1 points per game. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

The Raiders, who lost two-time HL Player of the Year Kim Demmings to graduation and former coach Mike Bradbury to New Mexico, were picked fifth in the preseason poll.

Now they’re 40 minutes away from history.

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“It’s awesome,” Merriweather said. “I think it’s more awesome for the kids, the things they’ve been able to overcome. They’re battled tested, and it just gives us a lot of confidence in our toughness.”

Even with a loss, WSU still could earn a share of the regular-season title with a win Sunday at home against Milwaukee. And with the way the HL tournament bracket is structured, there isn’t much advantage to being the No. 1 seed as opposed to No. 2, which is the farthest the Raiders would drop even if they were to lose both games this weekend.

“I don’t know if it takes any pressure off, but it feels really good,” Merriweather said. “That’s the reward for playing well for so long, so many games in a row, taking care of business every time we go out there to play. Does that make it less pressure? Maybe. But I think more than anything it gives us a lot of confidence going into the game.”

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