GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — Less than three weeks ago, UW Green Bay's softball season was on the ropes.
The Phoenix were just 4-9 in conference play and starting down another defeat.
But then, magic struck.
"Earlier this season it didn't look like we were going to make it," ace pitcher Brittany Baneck, a Green Bay Preble alumna, said. "And then a couple weeks ago coach just asked us to believe. And we did that."
Green Bay has responded by winning 10 of its last 12 games, a run that started on April 21 with back-to-back walk-off wins over rival Youngstown State.
"That turned our season around for us," fourth-year coach Sara Kubuske said. "And at the end of the day I think it goes to show how gritty this team is.
"That's something that we really kind of poise our culture on is being gritty and being those hungry players that are never going to give up and never going to quit," Kubuske continued.
Thanks to the late-season run, the Phoenix qualified for the Horizon League Championship as the conference's No. 5 seed.
On top of that, Green Bay will host the tournament starting Wednesday as the conference's highest seed that meets the hosting criteria.
"We're hyped," Tiffany Giese, Green Bay's leadoff hitter, said. "We've never been able to host before. It's always been the goal. So being able to be at home and on our turf, it's sweet."
On Tuesday, several Green Bay players were rewarded with postseason honors. That includes Giese, who was named the Horizon League Player of the year after hitting .452 in conference play.
Freshman infielder Paige Hanson was also named the conference Freshman of the Year.
"People are probably shocked that that's happened coming from a five-seeded team," Kubuske said. "But at the end of the day we knew that we have good players in this program.
"(We had) to put it together and we're getting hot at the right time," Kubuske added. "We've had an up-and-down season, but getting hot at the right time is what matters."
"That's what's important to is right now, if we're able to get hot right now that's what's important," Giese agreed. "We really took a step back (to think) and we realized that we're here for a reason and just to have fun and play the game that we love all together."
Green Bay will open the double elimination tournament Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. against No. 4 seed IUPUI. A win would advance the Phoenix to Thursday's semifinal round against top-seeded Oakland. A loss would put them in an elimination game Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.