By Jordan Zuniga
Coming into the season, the Iowa women’s basketball team had seen two Marchs come and go without being invited to the NCAA Tournament.
It was the first time in Lisa Bluder’s tenure that she had missed out on the Big Dance two years in a row, and she did not want to turn that into three.
At the end of the regular season, Bluder and Company had racked up 24 wins to just 7 losses, making it an easy decision for the selection committee to put the Hawkeyes in.
But Bluder has led teams to the tournament before. What made it special were the trials the coach had to deal with to get her team to the tournament, and that is why she has been selected as The Daily Iowan’s Coach of the Year.
One thing that made it hard on this team from the get-go was its size. Bluder only had 11 players to work with, two of them freshmen, and one of those freshmen was a walk-on, which meant Bluder had to take extra care that her best players both had enough floor time to help the team and enough rest so as not to burn them out in the beginning of the season.
All seemed fine out of the gate, as the Hawkeyes won their first seven games before losing to then-No. 13 Florida State in a nail-bitter before going on to winning another seven in a row.
That’s when disaster hit. The injury bug struck with the ferocity of a boxer’s l-2 combo; first Tania Davis was lost for the season with a torn ACL, then Makenzie Meyer broke her hand, sidelining her for a few weeks.
To complicate matters more, this happened right at the beginning of Big Ten play and the effect was noticeable.
After the loss of their two starters, the Hawkeyes stumbled through January, going a dismal 2-5.
With a stretch like that — in the middle of the season and having lost one of the starters for the year, with another coming back from injury — it would’ve been easy to start singing about next year.
That is not the mentality Bluder possesses, and that showed in her team.
Determined to make it, despite being a team with only 10 active players (two of whom had almost no college experience) Iowa battled back.
Iowa rebounded from its rough January to win all seven of its games in February, which coined the term “fabulous February.”
While March wasn’t as great as the Hawkeyes might have hoped — they went 1-2, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — it certainly was an accomplishment with how small this team was.
The success of this season may have been an accomplishment in and of itself for Bluder, but she also had some personal accolades this year as well.
Iowa’s first win of the season also marked Bluder’s 700th victory as a head coach, making her one of the winningest coaches amongst active women’s basketball coaches.
It certainly was quite a year for Bluder, and she handled it brilliantly.