Unsung seniors of women’s basketball


Thursday night’s Iowa women’s basketball game at home against Illinois will be the final contest for the Hawkeye seniors, including three — Wendy Ausdemore, Megan Skouby, and Kristi Smith — who will finish their career as the highest-scoring trio from one class in Big Ten history.

But they’re not the only fourth-year players being recognized at Iowa’s Senior Day ceremonies.
Guard Lindsey Nyenhuis and forward Nicole VanderPol arrived in Iowa City four years ago along with their aforementioned senior brethren, with the expectation their careers would turn out the same.

It hasn’t gone as expected, however.

VanderPol has endured a career hampered by injuries, including missing all but the first two games this season with a leg injury. She averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in Hawkeye contests against Texas State and Kansas.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said VanderPol will suit up Thursday.

“[We want her to] at least have an appearance on the floor in her last outing,” Bluder said. “I think that would be a great way for her to go out, but the game has to be going in the right direction for that to happen. A lot of it will depend on how we play and what the scoreboard looks like at the end of the game.”

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VanderPol said she’s excited to hit the Carver-Hawkeye Arena floor one more time.

“I went and talked to Coach Bluder about it,” she said. “I just felt like I just wanted to wear my jersey one more time and then be on the court one last time.”

The Grundy Center native said she grew up rooting for Iowa and looks forward to being able to put on the Iowa jersey one last time.

“It’ll be really special and probably a little emotional as well, but it’s just going to be really special to be able to put it on again,” VanderPol said. “I grew up a Hawkeye. Just being able to come down here to play at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is a dream come true, and I cherish every moment that I had with it.”

Nyenhuis has seen her minutes dwindle over her career and has seen limited action this season.

Despite not playing much, Nyenhuis is a fixture on the Iowa bench. She’s the first to stand up after a big play, the first to run onto the floor to greet players during a time-out, and the resident team jokester.

Bluder said that Nyenhuis — who everyone on the team calls “Niner” — is a key player in the program.

“She’s been there, worked extremely hard for four years,” Bluder said. “She’s always been an emotional leader for our team, has been a vocal leader on the bench and in practice. Our team counts on that.”

“Niner” said she realizes her role on the team and embraces it.

“I want to go out on a winning season, and if [not playing] is what it’s going to take, then I am totally fine with it,” she said. “I think on every team, you just need that one person that you know no matter what’s going on, on the floor or off the court, that you have that one person you can rely on to lift you up. Hopefully, I’ve been that.”

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