By Jordan Zuniga
At the end of last season, the Hawkeye women’s basketball team stumbled and lost in the NIT Elite Eight.
This year, they have four of the five starters from last season returning, and not one will be a senior.
So it’s safe to say that things are looking up for the Hawkeye women heading into the upcoming season.
“We were really young last season,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “We only had two seniors last year, and I’m excited about this year because of the use of last year and how much great experience our players received on the floor.”
Make no mistake, the loss of senior Ally Disterhoft is a big blow; in her career as a Hawkeye, she averaged 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.
She also won numerous awards throughout her career and left Iowa as its all-time leading scorer.
But while they will surly miss her, Bluder and the players aren’t worried about the loss of Disterhoft — it’s something they’ve dealt with before.
“Every year, we kind of have to go through this,” Bluder said. “That’s the nature of our business, replacing great players every year and to go on and developing the talent that we do have. It’s something we’re well-versed in, because that’s what you do as a college coach.”
The Hawkeyes will rely on junior forward Megan Gustafson to play a big role in replacing Disterhoft’s scoring.
Named to the All-Big Ten first team by both the coaches and the media, Gustafson is ready to pump up her game even more this season.
While Gustafson is arguably the best player on the team, she believes the key to the Hawkeyes’ success is being concerned more with the team’s success than with individual success.
“Chemistry,” Gustafson said when asked about the team’s key to success this season. “We have that already, but I think being able to build on that and just to build each other up. We’re really young still, we had a great freshman team last year, but now they’re sophomores, so that experience is so huge in helping us to be better next year.”
Gustafson and the Hawkeyes hope sticking together as a team will lead to a successful season.
Not everything has been smooth sailing for the Hawkeyes since last season ended.
Early this summer, officials announced that Game Time, the summer league in which the Iowa women regularly compete, had been canceled.
The women have been able to make up for it by adding an extra scrimmage game each week, but the players missed being able to play in front of their fans.
“That was a little bit disappointing, because it’s great to see the fans come out and support us,” Gustafson said.
For the Iowa women, this season’s biggest challenge will be overcoming their lack of depth, especially with the injuries that have plagued the squad recently.
“We don’t have a lot of depth,” Bluder said. “And that’s because of injury. Tania [Davis] is not back yet because of her ACL tear. Carley Mohns got held out all this summer and last year. So basically, it’s those unforeseen injuries that you can’t plan for that create a lack of depth, and that’s the one area I’m concerned about.”
If the Iowa women can stay healthy and continue to develop, they could make some noise come March.