River Falls athlete can’t wait to get healthy

Olivia Allen
Photo by Charles Hallman

The Wisconsin River Falls women’s basketball team opens its 2022-23 season at home on Nov. 11 vs. Buena Vista.

Olivia Allen, a sophomore forward from St. Paul, hopes that she will be at full strength for this contest and the rest of the season. The 5-11 Cretin-Derham Hall graduate was unable to play due to injury when the Falcons played Minnesota on Oct. 30 in an afternoon exhibition game at Williams Arena.

Forced unfortunately to be a cheerleader on the bench rather than playing with her teammates, Allen told the MSR after the game, “It’s been really hard mentally and physically. I think when I get healthy,” said Allen, the Falcons’ only Black player, “I will be a force on the inside, getting rebounds and being a good post for my guards.”

The River Falls campus is nearly 35 miles and almost 40 minutes away from the Twin Cities.  The short distance from school to home, among other factors, was convincing enough for Allen to choose UWRF to continue her academic and athletic pursuits. It is a Division III school, a member of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 

“I’m able to travel back home,” said Allen after spending time with family, friends, and other well-wishers who came to watch her at Williams Arena.

Playing basketball there is “even more fun” thanks to her teammates, said Allen. “I came and visited the school, met the girls,” she recalled. “I really wanted to be on a team that is like family. That’s how it’s been since the first day of practice.”

Allen also is a member of UWRF’s track and field team, but right now her focus is on hoops. UWRF is scheduled to play at Augsburg in Minneapolis Nov. 15.  

“I think we’re jelling great right now,” she concluded.

(l-r) UVI Director of Athletics Dr. Jerel Drew, GCAC Commissioner Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes, UVI President Dr. David Hall
Photo courtesy of UVI Communications

GCAC goes Caribbean 

The University of the Virgin Islands will join the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) beginning in the 2023-24 academic year. It has been over a century since a four-year institution in a U.S. territory competed in an athletic conference affiliated with the NAIA, which the GCAC is part of, or the NCAA.

The UVI Buccaneers become the GCAC’s ninth member after joining the NAIA less than a decade ago.

“We are truly excited for this opportunity and would like to thank Dr. Baker Barnes and all GCAC constituents who were key in this opportunity,” said Athletics Director Dr. Jerel Drew, who said UVI had been pursuing the possibility of being in an HBCU conference for a couple of years. 

“We hosted the first-ever University of the Virgin Islands HBCU Basketball Classic…a first for the territory. We now have the opportunity to compete nationally with our HBCU peers in a historical conference that embodies HBCU Pride.”

“The addition of UVI is in line with our conference strategy to increase membership,” said GCAC Commissioner Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes last week in a press release. “I’m excited about increasing the GCAC footprint into the Caribbean market. I believe that expansion is a great way to expose others to the excellent institutions that comprise the GCAC.”

The GCAS is the NAIA’s only all-Black conference, and one of five HBCU conferences overall – the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference (NCAA Division I), Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NCAA Division II) are the other four conferences.

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