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Hawkeye women’s wrap-up

Hawk Talk

Lisa Bluder has been the head coach of the Hawkeye women for 16 years.
The Hawks made the postseason (including last year in the WNIT) in 15 of those years.
Iowa finished the season 19-14, 8-10 in the Big Ten, and according to most basketball analysts, were one win away from getting into the NCAA tournament.
It would have been the ninth straight for the Hawkeyes, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
I got a chance to sit down with Associate Head Coach Jan Jensen last week and talk about the Hawkeye season, the returning players and another top-20 recruiting class.
The first thing coach Jensen told me is “recruiting is going to kill me, Don.”
Jan and Head Coach Lisa Bluder were just getting off the phone doing some recruiting and it ended up being a little frustrating.
Jan can’t be too frustrated, Iowa has done such a great job in the last two years signing back-to-back top-20 classes.
I’m sure there will always be not so smooth moments when it comes to recruiting 16- and 17-year-olds.
One or two more victories and Iowa is in the Big Dance.
“We’ve had that in our 20-plus years (including coaching at Drake) three times,” said coach Jan. “Two times we got in but this year we just didn’t have the consistency, but we did a lot of great things. It would have been awesome if we got in the NCAA tournament but I also think it was fair.”
You can go back to some tough losses in the Big Ten, including losing big leads and a last-second shot that gave Minnesota a 78-76 win, but an early 81-77 double-overtime loss to George Washington still makes Jan question how Iowa didn’t get the right call at the end of regulation.
The game was tied at 64 and Alexa Kastanek (shooting 90 percent from the free throw line at the time) was fouled with 0.4 second left in the game.
“They called a foul, she was going to the line, they stopped it and then they went to the monitor,” Jan said. “They interpreted a rule and it was incorrect.”
The head of the officials apologized after the game, but it didn’t change the score and Iowa lost their first game of the year after starting 5-0.
The Hawks finished the Big Ten schedule with good wins over Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana and Purdue.
Iowa also had some tough losses to Michigan State (twice), Indiana and Minnesota, 78-76 on a last-second 3-pointer.
“I think it was just a lack of experience,” said Jan. “We started two freshmen, two sophomores and Ally (a junior) for most of the Big Ten season.
“We didn’t get a lot of breaks, we didn’t make a lot of breaks, but when you look at it as a whole, there was a lot more positive that will help spring forward to next season.”

Senior grads

Iowa graduated two seniors– Kali Peschel and Claire Till– who played a lot, but didn’t put up a lot of stats.
Kali had 42 starts in her four years, averaging 3.8 points and 2.9 rebounds.
“Kali did a nice job of coming off the bench and playing her role,” said Jan.
Claire was injured a lot during he career, but played in 95 games in four years. She went out for good last February, with career-ending knee surgery.
“Claire always gave it everything she had,” said coach JJ. “She just had a hard time with the pounding every day.”

Returning players

Ally Disterhoft, Alexa Kastanek and Hailey Schneden will be the three seniors leading the team next season.
Ally was named academic All-American last year and scored 565 points.
The 565 points broke the all-time junior record Michelle Edwards set in 1986-87 of 564 points.
Ally was second team All-Big Ten, led the team in scoring (17.1) and scored in double-figures in every game last season.
There were 13 things on the list of accomplishments that were in Ally’s bio, including Academic All-Big Ten (twice) and Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
“Ally’s consistency on and off the court, she is All-Big Ten in every regard,” said coach Jensen. “It should be fun for her, Lex and Hailey to lead this team.”
Hailey is one of those team players that is fun to be around and works hard at practice.
“She’s just a great person that makes everybody better because she works hard,” said Jan. “She’s one of those kids that can always break the ice with that great smile.”
Alexa started 20 games last year and led the team with 56 3-pointers.
“She started out hot (shooting threes) and then cooled off so we tried out bring her off the bench,” said the coach. “I think she’s going to have a good off-season for us and get back into the thick of it.”
Chase Coley, Christina Buttenham and Carly Mohns will be juniors next season.
Chase had 31 starts last year and earned the team’s Most Improved Award.
She averaged 11.1 points, 5.88 rebounds and her 37 blocks were second most on the team.
She also shot 52 percent from the floor and 81 percent from the free throw line.
“I love her versatility,” said Jan. “Chase is quick afoot, light on her feet and, when utilized right, can be a tough matchup on your opponent.”
Christina played in 31 games last year, played good defense, hit some threes and had 85 rebounds.
“She’s a nice utility player,” said the coach. “A good defensive player. We’re trying to get her more consistent.”
Carly played in only nine games last year before going out with a season-ending knee injury.
“That hurt us last year when Carly got hurt,” said Jan. “She was coming off the bench and clearing the boards. I think if we had her we would have definitely been in (the NCAA tournament).”
Jan said Carly looks good in spring workouts and they are expecting big things out of her.
For only the fifth time in 15 years, the Hawkeyes had two players on the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
Tania Davis and Megan Gustafson were selected from the Hawkeyes.
Tania started 16 games and was one of two Big Ten freshmen to lead their team in assists (111). The 111 assists are the second-highest assist total in Hawkeye history.
“I think the bigger the game, she just embraces it,” said coach Jensen. “She’s learned and got more and more confident. I think we are going to see bigger and better things out of her. She’s fun to watch.”
Megan, who started 14 games, was the only Big Ten freshman to lead her team in field goal percentage (.554), rebounds per game (6.8) and blocks per game (1.8).
Megan and Chase, in the lineup together, made the Hawkeyes tough to guard.
Coach Jan said Hannah Stewart showed great progress in practice.
“She has the drive and the great team-first personality,” said Jan. “She’s got great leadership qualities and a work ethic that is going to push her.”

New Hawkeyes

The Hawkeye freshman class, rated in the top 20, include two from Iowa; Makenzie Meyer (Mason City) and Amanda Ollinger (Cedar Rapids).
Makenzie (5-10) can play the point or the two (shooting) guard.
“Great energy kid and grew up wanting to be a Hawkeye,” said Jan. “So solid, works so hard and she will make everybody better.”
Amanda (6-1) was coached by former Hawkeye Jaime Printy at Linn-Mar, so she played the same offense Iowa runs.
“That will help her,” said the coach. “She can shoot from the outside and she rebounds like crazy.”
Bre Cera (5-10) is a two-time all-state pick from Wisconsin.
“The thing about Bre is that she can just play defense and she loves it,” Jan said. “She brings a swag and blue collar. We’re looking forward to her energy.”
Alexis Sullivan (5-6) was a teammate of Tania Davis in high school.
“Smart kid, smart basketball player and high motor,” said Jan. “She also plays good defense and can hit the three.”
It’s always fun to watch the new kids in Game Time this summer.
Five Iowa players have starting experience.
It should be a exciting season.