Elise DeNoyer thought it was strange that her UW-La Crosse women’s basketball coaches wanted to come by her work on Tuesday.
Sitting at her desk at the ACCESS Center inside UW-L’s Murphy Library, she learned some exciting news from her coaches.
“I told her, ‘You got named first team all-conference,’” Eagles coach Karen Middleton said. “And Elise said, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ And then (assistant) coach Jo (Streed) told her, ‘And player of the year.’”
DeNoyer, a 5-foot-10 senior forward from Waukesha, Wis., said it had always been a goal in the back of her mind to earn the WIAC’s top honor. After quickly becoming a starter her freshman season and being a mainstay in the Eagles’ lineup for four seasons, she finally made it happen.
With her all-around game and the way she assumed the No. 1 scorer’s role for the Eagles, she led the Eagles to a 16-10 over record and a 9-5 mark in the WIAC. DeNoyer was the team’s leader with 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. She was fifth and second, respectively, in the conference in those categories. She is the second UW-L player to earn the player of the year honor and the first since Mackenzie Hunter in 2008-09.
“It’s so exciting,” DeNoyer said on Tuesday. “This was something I’d always wanted, but was never sure would happen.”
Behind DeNoyer — and fellow All-WIAC honorees Delaney Schoenenberger (honorable mention) and Dani Craig (honorable mention) — the Eagles were in the running for the conference regular-season championship until the last week of the season. DeNoyer reached 1,000 career points this season, becoming the 17th player in program history to do so. She finished her career with 1,102 points, the 11th-most in program history, and 685 rebounds, the sixth-most in program history.
“She’s got such versatility. She can hit 3s, pull-ups, she can post you up,” Middleton said. “She could find her advantage against her matchup. It was fun to be creative and put her in those spots within what we do.”
DeNoyer was the second offensive option for the Eagles both her sophomore and junior seasons, but she was able to easily transition into the role of go-to player this year. Being the player opponents’ defenses were geared toward didn’t slow her down — she led the conference with five double-doubles, and had a career-high 27 points against Luther in November.
“There was no pressure,” DeNoyer said of her season. “Everyone on our team was a threat. Being a senior and coming back with a lot of experience, I had expectations, but there wasn’t pressure.”
Middleton said DeNoyer’s attitude, focused on winning and doing whatever the Eagles’ coaching staff asked of her, set an example for the rest of the team.
“When your best player is one of your hardest workers, you’re in good shape,” Middleton said.
DeNoyer’s work ethic made her a trusted player on the floor by both teammates and coaches. When the shot clock was winding down on a UW-L possession, the Eagles would work the ball to her and let her create. Out of timeouts and other late-game scenarios, Middleton called DeNoyer’s number often.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” DeNoyer said. “You play for four years and you build that (trust). My coaches had the confidence in me and it makes you feel in control.”
While her play on the court will be missed, DeNoyer was also a key contributor to the team’s high morale. Even after making a mistake during a game, DeNoyer would give a knowing look over to her bench as if to say, “Well, that wasn’t good.” But those miscues wouldn’t take her out of her game.
“That’s just who she is,” Middleton said. “She always gave it her all, and when you do that the rest figures itself out. She’s a special one.”