Hawkeyes will be tested early and often


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If the Iowa women’s basketball team was hoping to ease into the season, then the players are in for a surprise.

The Hawkeyes have not only scheduled several quality teams for their nonconference schedule, they have scheduled them early and often.

“I keep trying to tell myself to lighten up on this a little bit, especially when you lose two starters to graduation,” head coach Lisa Bluder said at the team’s media day. “But again, we have a very tough nonconference schedule.”

The Hawkeyes will open their season with their today’s matchup against Cal-Riverside. That game has taken a back seat to the Hawkeyes’ Nov. 10 matchup against No. 14 Dayton.

“This is a team that is very well-coached. They are winners; they know how to win,” Bluder said. “We are really challenging ourselves early in our schedule, playing such a good basketball program as Dayton.”

Bluder admitted that while playing a team like Dayton in Carver-Hawkeye Arena is certainly exciting for the program, facing such a high-caliber team this early in the schedule is somewhat scary.

“Ideally, I would have liked to play a couple more teams before we played a team such as Dayton,” Bluder said. “But, sometimes in nonconference scheduling, you take a team when you can get them. It’s a hard jigsaw to put together with scheduling. It is nice to have a top-20 team on your home court.”

Dayton won’t be the only nonconference game that should be a challenge for the Hawkeyes — their schedule is littered with them.

The Hawkeyes will play Syracuse in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge — a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season — USC and Boston College in Cancún, Mexico, and the Hawkeyes will travel to Boulder, Colo., to take on No. 19 Colorado.

Plus, the Hawkeyes will compete in their yearly in-state rivalry games that always bring extra emotion to the court— including a matchup with No. 23 Iowa State.

These games could prove to be extra difficult for the Hawkeyes as they facing a lot of questions headed into the season — the most noteworthy of which is the recent blow to the team that Nicole Smith will miss 10 to 14 weeks with a meniscus tear.

This injury will stretch the already thin Iowa bench and will force sophomore Claire Till to move to center to back up Bethany Doolittle.

But for now, the Hawkeyes will focus on Cal-Riverside and picking up their first win of the season.

“We’ve got to take one game at a time, so we can’t really look too forward to Dayton yet. You have to take care of business first with UC-Riverside,” junior Sam Logic said. “[They’re] two really good teams, and it’s a really good opportunity for us on Sunday to take on a ranked team on our home floor.”

If there is one question that needs no answering, it’s that the Hawkeyes are ready for the season to get underway.

“We’re looking forward to it. We’ve obviously been practicing since summer, so I think we’re all ready to get the season going, but things have been looking really well in practice,” Ally Disterhoft said. “I think we’re just eager to get out there and show people what we’ve been working on.”

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