Head coach Lisa Bluder became the first in Hawkeye history to win both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles last year. Iowa is ranked fourth overall by the Associated Press, the program’s highest nod since 1994. With all five starters from last year’s team returning to the black and gold, she knows her Hawkeyes won’t be flying under the radar in her 23rd season.
“We’re not going to sneak up on anybody this year. We shouldn’t be after coming off of a historic year last year, winning both the conference tournament and the regular season title,” Bluder opened her press conference with today. “But we have every reason to have high expectations for this season.”
Bluder remembered a conversation she had with tennis legend Billie Jean King, one she passed on to her players.
“Billie Jean King told me that one time: Pressure is a privilege. That’s what we are trying to use. She actually wrote that on a piece of paper and signed it for me, and we have it framed in our locker room. It’s something I want my players to see,” Bluder recalled.
And, some players did indeed see it. Like senior guard Molly Davis, who transferred from Central Michigan and has seen firsthand how different the standards are in Iowa City.
“Coach always talks about pressure is a privilege,” Davis said. “Obviously, on a bigger stage here at Iowa and obviously a little bit more added pressure.”
Point guard Caitlin Clark, reigning conference player of the year, says she’s embracing the lofty expectations, and Iowa’s high rank didn’t take her by surprise.
“I wasn’t surprised. I figured we’d be right around there,” Clark said. “Obviously bringing back five starters for the third consecutive year — that is not common in any sport. I think we’ve shown what we can do. It’s just putting it all together and being consistent throughout the year.”