Cyclones host Mavericks in first Hilton contest


File photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Guard Kelsey Bolte drives to the basket against Texas Tech last season.

Dan Tracy

Water flooded its doors in early August. Now ISU fans will get their first chance this year to flood the doors of Hilton Coliseum when the ISU women will open their 2010-2011 season with an exhibition game against Division II Minnesota State-Mankato.

“I am just so excited to even think about playing at Hilton Coliseum,” said coach Bill Fennelly. “That place is so special to so many people, and the chance to get back in there is going to be important to our school, to our team and to our community.”

Entering his 16th year at the helm, Fennelly will coach an ISU squad coming off of a 2009 campaign in which it went 25-8 overall, 11-5 in the Big 12 and made its second consecutive NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance.

With practice beginning six days earlier this season, Fennelly believes his team is eager to get on the court and face an unfamiliar opponent.

“Our kids are getting a little stale, they’re tired of practicing and they need to play in a game,” Fennelly said.

The Cyclones return six players from a year ago who have the experience of playing at Hilton and will welcome in five new players who have not yet experienced the “Magic” of an ISU home contest.

“I kind of don’t know what to expect, and I’ve heard that it’s magic, so that’s exciting. I’ve never really played in front of thousands or anything like that,” said junior guard Lauren Mansfield, one of five newcomers.

The most experienced Cyclone on this year’s team is the lone senior, guard Kelsey Bolte. A preseason All-Big 12 selection, Bolte is one of three returning starters for the Cyclones, along with sophomore center Anna Prins and sophomore forward Chelsea Poppens.

“They haven’t been on the floor while it’s happening yet, but I think they’re going to be excited when they get out there,” Bolte said when asked how the newcomers will respond to the atmosphere at Hilton. “They’re going to be nervous, of course, but they’re going to be excited too.”

Another group of players that will be playing at Hilton Coliseum for the first time will be the Mankato State Mavericks. The Division II National Champions in 2008-2009, the Mavericks are coming off of a season in which they finished 15-13 and 10-10 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The Mavericks have lost their top two scorers from a year ago in Liz Trauger and Tiffany Moe but return their other three starters for a team that is predicted to finish eighth in the 14-team NSIC.

Although Iowa State does not have a scouting report on the Mavericks, Fennelly said he is excited to see how his team plays against someone other than the male scout team.

“We’re going to play someone that doesn’t know everything we do and doesn’t know every little thing about us, so the things that don’t work in practice might work a little better from time to time [in the game],” Fennelly said.

Fennelly expects to see a lot of zone defense from a Minnesota State-Mankato team that boasts only one player, 6-foot-2-inch junior center Laura Weber, who is taller than 6 feet, compared to an ISU squad that has five.

As for the first starting lineup of the season, Fennelly announced Tuesday that Mansfield will get the first chance to start at point guard Thursday. Mansfield will be replacing the departed Alison Lacey, who graduated from Iowa State to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

“She’s definitely by far right now been the leader in what we’ve done in practice, so she’ll get the first look at it,” Fennelly said.

Mansfield, a junior college transfer from Midland College in Texas, has been competing all pre-season against four other ISU guards — juniors Chassidy Cole and Darcie Dick, and freshmen Elly Arganbright and Kelsey Harris — for the starting position.

“I definitely had to work hard and improve myself and show how I can get the team into what they need to be doing in running through the plays and kind of leading the team, so I’ve been working hard at that and just trying to improve myself,” Mansfield said.

Outside of the decision to start Mansfield as the floor general, Fennelly decided that Bolte and Poppens will also be on the floor to start Thursday’s game. Fennelly also noted that Prins and Cole are both “not physically ready yet” for extended playing time in the game.

“All these kids deserve, especially Thursday, to play at Hilton, so we’re going to get them all in the game,” Fennelly said.

Iowa State’s final record won’t indicate the result Thursday, but for a team that has finished with one or fewer home losses in four of the last six seasons, getting back to play in their home arena as soon as possible will be important for this year’s Cyclones.

“[In an exhibition game] everything counts except the stats and wins and losses, but we approach it in a way that everything counts in the way you approach the game, and anytime you put the uniform on and get to play over [at Hilton] you ought to take it seriously, and that’s what we’ll do,” Fennelly said.

The opening tip on Thursday is set for 7 p.m.