Alyssa Colla sparkles at Northern Michigan University
Junior hits 1,000 points, helps team win conference
The final home game of this season for the Northern Michigan University women's basketball team was a special evening for Alyssa Colla.
Northern Michigan was facing rival Michigan Tech and needed a victory to tie Tech for second place in the North Division of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).
Colla had a big game, scoring 25 points and adding six rebounds, two assists and two steals to help the Wildcats defeat Tech 67-59, but the night really became memorable when she tallied the 1,000th point of her career.
Her achievement was particularly remarkable because she is just a junior at NMU. Colla, who currently stands 21st on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,058 career points, has all of next season to add to that total.
"That was a big accomplishment," said the former Muskego High School standout. "It was a cool moment for sure. In the next timeout, they made an announcement about (the 1,000 points). My family was there, too, to see it."
Family ties to NMU
It is not surprising that the Colla family was present for the big moment, since there is an extensive and continuing connection between the Collas and NMU, which is located in Marquette, Mich.
Alyssa's sister Ashley is a freshman guard on the basketball team and another sister, Aimee, verbally committed to NMU on a soccer scholarship. Aimee is currently a junior at Muskego High School.
"We feel pretty blessed to have three daughters going to school there," mother Lisa Colla said. "The athletic department is awesome, really nice, and the coaches are supportive. Their teammates were really welcoming, and in fact the whole school was welcoming.
"The community was great, holding team dinners for the girls. The transition from Muskego to Marquette came easily, since they are similar towns.
"We feel really lucky to be able to see our daughters play there."
Ashley will have three years of basketball left, and Aimee four years of soccer, but for right now, Alyssa is the one in the spotlight.
The 5 foot-11 guard led NMU in scoring with 16.7 points per game and also averaged 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals.
She helped the Wildcats win the GLIAC Tournament and qualify for this season's NCAA Division II Tournament.
Colla is versatile
Colla can play two positions, either the point guard or shooting guard. and boasts a well-rounded offensive game.
"I am somewhat tall for a point guard, so I can go in and post up against the smaller guards," she said. "I can drive, shoot from outside and hit the 3-pointer."
Colla is also strong on defense and was named to the GLIAC All-Defensive Team this season. She was also a first-team all-conference selection as well as an All-Midwest Region second team choice.
"That was cool as well," she said of the honors. "It's all because of hard work, and it couldn't be done without my teammates."
Colla said that the foundation for this season's success was laid last summer. The Northern Michigan coaching staff encourages the players to go home for summer, with the condition that they train on their own.
"We have a workout plan, with weightlifting, conditioning and shooting," Colla said. "It's nice because I can work with Ashley in summer. We rebound for each other and we push each other through the workouts."
All the summer work -- plus daily sprints at 6 a.m. during the pre-season period last fall -- paid off for Colla and the Wildcats this season.
Wildcats win tourney
NMU won its season-finale showdown against Michigan Tech on the night Colla scored her 1,000th point to finish 16-6 and tie Tech for second place in the division, trailing Wayne State of Michigan (17-5).
The Wildcats were given the second seed in the conference tournament and opened with an 82-64 triumph over Northwood as Colla tallied 14 points.
They then downed Michigan Tech again in the semifinals, 59-54, behind 12 points by Colla and topped Malone (Ohio) 53-49 in the title game as Colla tallied 11 points.
The victory over Malone, NMU's 10th straight, gave the Wildcats a berth in the NCAA tournament.
They faced Quincy in the first tourney game at Springfield, Mo., on March 14 and dropped a tough 65-58 overtime decision to end their season at 22-8.
NMU led 30-21 at the half and scored the first seven points of the second half to go up 37-21.
"They then switched to a zone (defense) and we had trouble with that," said Colla, who finished with 18 points in the game.
Quincy scored 10 straight points to come within 37-31, eventually tied the game at 52-52 and took control in the extra session.
Despite the loss, Colla said the tournament was enjoyable.
"The team had not been to the (NCAA) in a long time, and the whole experience was cool," she said. "We were able to spend a couple of days in Springfield. It was nice weather, and we went on a safari tour, where we rode in a bus and animals came right up to us. We were able to feed them through the windows."
Colla said she came into the program as one of eight freshmen, and that group has grown together over three seasons.
"We should be even better next year," she said. "We hope to get even further in the tournament."
Alyssa, Ashley together
Alyssa will once again have the pleasure of playing on the same team as Ashley, as she did this season as well as during her senior year at Muskego.
"She (Ashley) made a last-minute decision to go to Northern," Alyssa said. "I had been talking to her about Northern all along, and she changed her mind (after considering another school). She was also able to get some scholarship money."
Ashley played limited time this season (four minutes per game) but should have a larger role with the team in 2014-15.
Alyssa is majoring in public relations, while Ashley is leaning toward studies in community health.
Aimee will join the Colla procession to Northern for the 2015-16 school year.
"She has been to school a lot of times to see our games," Alyssa said, "so she knows the campus. She also wanted to stay in the Midwest."
Lisa added, "Aimee had been recruited by some other schools, but when she heard she had a chance to go to NMU, she said it was awesome."
Lisa said the ride to Marquette is about five hours, but considering the success Alyssa has enjoyed and the potential of Ashley and Aimee, the trip is well worth the effort.
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