Cyclone women saving March for Iowa State fans

Jeremy Gustafson

With no offense at all meant to the men’s basketball team, it is time for fans around Iowa State (at least those that haven’t noticed already) to take a long hard look at one of the best teams in Cyclone history – the ISU women’s basketball squad.

This team has overcome many trials and tribulations and is on their way to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year.

The loss of Stacy Frese, Desiree Francis and Monica Huelman was supposed to devastate the Cyclone women. After all, Frese was the first All-American in school history and both her and Francis are playing in the WNBA, how can a team win without them?

Enter the greatest player to don a Cyclone uniform – Megan Taylor. Mix in a scrappy sophomore point guard determined to live large in the shadow of Frese with Lindsey Wilson and a re-vamped Tracy Gahan who has picked up her scoring and rebounding totals from last season.

Combine with that the second All-American in school history Angie Welle and the Cyclones are on their way to new heights.

Add one of the best all-around players on the team, Erica Haugen, and a freshman who is a star in the making, Erica Junod.

Oh, and don’t forget what Bill Fennelly calls the best crowd in women’s college basketball, and you have the recipe for a team that can go deep into March.

And that is exactly what the Cyclones are doing.

Again, no offense to the men, but leave it to women to do a man’s job.

In Kansas City, when the men lost in the second round to Baylor, there was a feeling of sadness amongst Cyclone fans. It seemed that the disappointment of the men overshadowed what the women were attempting to do the next day, win the Big 12 tournament.

Nobody except Fennelly and the gang thought that the women were going to win it and not the men, especially since the women would likely face two teams that had beat them already: Baylor and Texas Tech.

The Cyclone women showed gritty determination holding off both teams and taking over in the final 10 minutes of each game while the men never led against Baylor.

But one fan that I know had the attitude that every true Cardinal and Gold fanatic should take. He called me from his car on his way to K.C., a couple of hours after the Bears pulled off the biggest upset in Big 12 tournament history, and said “tell everyone to be positive, we can still win a championship.”

He told the truth. The women came out and held off Oklahoma to win the tournament. Municipal Auditorium was louder than Hilton has ever been. The men’s loss seemed to power a crowd who didn’t want to go home with the bitter taste of defeat on their tongues.

It is now time for the fans to do it again.

Fennelly and his players know how important the crowd is. Hell, anybody who has been within earshot of Hilton when the women are playing know how vital the fans are.

If the fans, who no longer have a men’s team to root for as Hampton spoiled what could have been a shot at the Final Four for Larry Eustachy, show up in Denver, the ISU women could be on their way to St. Louis.

It won’t be easy as both Vanderbilt and Colorado are tough, and Notre Dame is one of the best teams in the country, but with the support that has helped Iowa State go 62-2 over the past four seasons at home, the Cyclones could dance clear into April.

The men were arguably one of the greatest teams in school history and it is a shame that Jamaal Tinsley, Paul Shirley, Martin Rancik and Kantrail Horton had to end their career with such a devastating loss. But our school is still in it.

The women’s team has tied the school mark for wins, and a win in the Sweet 16 would advance the Cyclones to the Elite Eight for only the second time ever. If they get past that, who knows what they’ll do.

One thing is for sure, this team is starting to peak at the right time, they are playing their best defense in the post-season.

As my friend said, “tell everyone to be positive, we can still win a championship.”

Nobody could have put it better.

Jeremy Gustafson is a senior in journalism and mass communication from Ogden. He is co-sports editor of the Daily