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WIAA state girls basketball: Monroe’s Grace Tostrud comes from a family with deep roots in hoops

March 7, 2019

The knack for WIAA state basketball success lives deep in the Tostrud/Deignan family genes.

Grace Tostrud, a junior on the Monroe girls basketball team, is heading back to the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals for the second time in her career.

Grace is not the only member of her family to compete at the highest level. Her mom, Maureen (Deignan) Tostrud, was a part of the first Monroe girls team to make an appearance at state in 1988.

“Making it to state in 1988 was such a fun and unexpected opportunity,” Maureen Tostrud said. “The reality of running out onto the UW Field House floor for warm-ups that first game and seeing all the Monroe fans there ... now that was surreal, and such a wonderful moment for our team.”

Her younger sister, Katy, also played on that team. And their father, Marty Deignan, served as an assistant coach.

“It was neat for our family to have that experience together,” Maureen said.

The 1988 team eventually finished runner-up in what was known as Class A, the largest of three WIAA classes back then.

Even after graduation, Maureen remained involved with the program — she served as an assistant coach for eight years. “I was fortunate to be able to be part of the coaching staff on the 1995 and 2000 state teams,” she said.

Maureen’s youngest sister, Sara, was a senior on the 1995 Division 2 state team, and Marty, a long-time elementary school physical education teacher, also was still serving as an assistant. Maureen’s brother, Joe, played on Monroe’s 1991 state tournament boys team. In all, Maureen grew up with nine siblings, most of whom saw success as athletes at Monroe and beyond.

Fast forward to the present: The Monroe girls team is ready to make its third consecutive Division 2 state semifinal appearance (and 11th overall). And Grace Tostrud, just like others in her family, is making her own mark in Monroe basketball history.

“I think it’s really cool because my family has been a part of the program for a while,” Grace Tostrud said. “They’ve all been able to share their experiences with me, and it’s cool for me to be able to continue the family tradition.”

Last season was a new experience for Grace, a sophomore in her first year on varsity and playing on the Resch Center floor with her teammates.

This time around, as the third-seeded Cheesemakers (20-6) prepare to take on second-seeded Whitefish Bay (23-3) in a semifinal at 3:15 p.m. Friday, Tostrud said she feels more at ease with the hectic process of media day, practice, travel, and the actual game.

“It’s obviously a lot different than a normal game,” Grace Tostrud said, “but I guess for me, personally, I‘m trying to keep the week as normal as possible and stay in same routine.

“I’ll be able to focus more on the game and hopefully helping my team win.”

Tostrud again leads the Cheesemakers in 3-point baskets with 38. Last season, she finished with 40.

But her role has been expanded this year, as she serves as the team’s primary defensive anchor and is assigned to the opponent’s top post player.

“Her primary responsibility on defense is to try to limit touches and make it as difficult as possible (in the post),” Mathiason said.

In doing so, Tostrud has been the team’s leader in defensive rebounds (155) and second in total rebounds (168). Her average has increased to 6.7 rebounds per game.

“Communication is a big thing. The more we talk, the better we are,” Grace Tostrud said. “When I’m down there, I can communicate more with my teammates so everyone knows who they have.”

Monroe’s defensive intensity has held opponents to an average of 49 points per game, while the spread offense has averaged 61 points.

“We try to stretch the floor to make teams make decisions,” Mathiason said. “We want to create as much pressure as we can.”

Mathiason, is no stranger to preparing an excited team to maximize its performance at state.

“We try to get the most out of their bodies at this time of year,” he added, “to keep them fresh to perform at their best.”

But, he added, “a big part of (this week) is to be able to sit back and enjoy it.”

As a parent, Maureen Tostrud agrees: “We’re thankful for the life lessons that basketball — and sports in general — can help instill. ... State basketball is such a great experience, something they will remember forever.”

“I’m just super excited and looking forward to this experience with my team,” Grace Tostrud said.