Transitioning Hawkeyes will have no shortage of leadership


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OKLAHOMA CITY — All year long, the Iowa women’s basketball team had their sights set on a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA Tournament.

An undefeated home season paired with some truly superb basketball in the tournament’s first two rounds helped turn that dream into a reality, one the Hawks hadn’t experienced in nearly 20 years.

Even though the goal was achieved, a Sweet 16 loss still tastes bitter to many of the Hawkeyes, who were hungry for more.

“[Head coach Lisa Bluder] just said this is how it is going to end for all teams except one at the end,” sophomore Ally Disterhoft said. “It is going to be bittersweet. Everyone is going to feel that hurt, and it’s going to sting for a while. She just said, ‘We appreciate the seniors’ and that it was a tough one.”

The goal of a Sweet 16 berth was a lofty but reasonable expectation for this team, however, one that didn’t end up satisfying the Hawkeyes’ hunger once it was achieved.

For a team that seemed to rise to the occasion when called upon throughout the year, moral victories stemming from a loss will always be a tough pill to swallow.

Not that they’re any less thankful for the ride.

“It was a goal not only for this year but for the last four years, and to finally do it, it was so special, and it’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” senior Melissa Dixon said. “I’m so thankful to have done it with these people and to have been a part of this program for the last four years.”

For Dixon and seniors Sam Logic, Bethany Doolittle, and Kathryn Reynolds, the last four seasons have been a roller-coaster ride, one that has seen each rack up numerous records and awards, both on the court and in the classroom.

But the real story of the Hawks comes from how they were defined as a team.

For Iowa, the whole was always greater than the sum of its parts, even if some of those parts were pretty damn great.

“They want to win so bad that they really just don’t care about their own minutes,” Logic said. “I think this whole team is so selfless in that way. They just want to celebrate for us so badly and I think it’s just so apparent to everyone watching that how much we love playing together, even if they’re not on the floor.”

The Hawks will be without that senior class next year next year, but the attitude they helped instill will remain for seasons to come.

The rest of the Hawkeyes who will return next season are full of talent in their own right, with more on the way.

Now, as the Hawkeyes transition, players who once filled a role for Iowa will be called on to lead the team the way this year’s group of seniors has.

Big shoes to fill, no doubt, but after years of learning from some of the best the conference has to offer, rest assured that, while the leaders in their current form may be gone, the leadership itself will always be there.

“They mean everything. They have been great leaders on and off the court. They lead by example, even after a loss like this they are still the kind of people you want to go to and turn to,” junior Kali Peschel said. “Win or lose, they are always there for us and great leaders.”

Follow @ryanarod on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.

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