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Why DIII? After a rocky start to her college career, this UWO star ‘chose happiness'

Wrightstown native Bridget Froehlke grew up dreaming of playing Division I college hoops. But after the "hardest time of her life," she's found a home at Division III powerhouse UW-Oshkosh.
Posted at 6:02 PM, Mar 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-01 23:10:01-05

OSHKOSH, Wis. (NBC 26) — Bridget Froehlke admits her first few years of college didn’t go as she envisioned.

After a decorated career at Wrightstown High School, Froehlke earned a scholarship to NCAA Division I Missouri-Kansas City. Three years and two schools later, she’s found a home at Division III UW-Oshkosh.

  • Froehlke started her college career at UMKC, before transferring to Division II St. Cloud state and then eventually to UW-Oshkosh.
  • The sharp-shooting guard has battled through two ACL tears in the last four years.
  • She averaged 10.1 points per game this season, helping lead UWO to a WIAC regular season championship and to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
  • As a senior in high school, Froehlke helped lead Wrightstown to the WIAA state championship game before the tournament was shut down due to COVID-19.

After a decorated career at Wrightstown High School, Bridget Froehlke headed to Missouri to play Division I basketball with the Kansas City Roos.
“Growing up I set that goal for myself,” Froehlke said. "I was like... 'I want to be a Division 1 basketball player.' Because that was obviously seen as the coolest thing. The best route to take.”

But the experience wasn’t what she envisioned.

"My freshman year (at UMKC) was probably one of the hardest times of my life,” Froehlke said. "I was coming back from an ACL tear. It was COVID so all my classes were online and I was pretty much either in my dorm room or at practice."

Following her freshman year, she transferred: choosing Division II St. Cloud State over UWO.

"I went with St. Cloud and the week after I kind of regretted it,” Froehlke laughed

After a year in Minnesota, Froehlke finally found her way to Oshkosh.

"I think Bridget would tell you that when you choose happiness, you end up in the right place,” longtime UWO coach Brad Fischer said.

It’s relatively rare for a player to move from Division I down to Division III, but Fischer said it’s something he’s seen more of recently.

"I think the world is just different than it was 10 years ago,” he said. “Having to chase a scholarship doesn't have to be the finish line for you. You need to be happy where you wake up every day. You need to be happy where you go to class. You need to be happy in the program you're in.”

Froehlke said she wishes she’d learned that lesson sooner.

"Growing up, I wish that people would have kind of emphasized that the division doesn't really matter,” she said. “And you should just go somewhere where you're going to be happy.”

Now in her second season at Oshkosh, Froehlke has found a home. And this weekend, she’ll experience her lifelong dream of playing in an NCAA Tournament.

"It's surreal,” she said. "I mean this is the moment that I've dreamed for since I was a little kid.”

“Honestly the number one thing for me is just being able to do this alongside all my teammates,” Froehlke added. "They're my best friends. I just don't want the season to end because I want to be able to keep playing with them every single day.”

UWO took down previously unbeaten Webster University (Missouri) Friday in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament. Froehlke led all scorers with 15 points.