Immense preseason expectations weighing on Iowa State women’s basketball


Joseph Dicklin

Bill Fennelly addresses the media regarding the upcoming season at Media Day on Oct. 10.

Coming off a record-setting season, Iowa State faces considerable expectations heading into the 2022-23 year. With the return of multiple veteran players, the Cyclones aim to reach even greater heights. 

Iowa State was voted first in the Big 12 preseason poll for the first time since the 2000-01 season. The Cyclones also return senior Ashley Joens, junior Emily Ryan and junior Lexi Donarski, all of whom were All-Big 12 players. 

The Cyclones were voted to win the conference for just the third time in program history, and each previous time the team lived up to expectations. With a potentially special season at its cusp, comparisons are already being made to previous Iowa State teams of the early 2000s. 

“They’re the exact same type of people,” said head coach Bill Fennelly. “The commitment they made to this university, this program, that’s what has been so fun.”

In the 1999-2000 season, the Cyclones were projected to finish No. 1 in the Big 12, and they delivered with a regular season title along with a conference tournament win. 

They were picked to win the conference again in 2000-01. While they fell short in the regular season, Iowa State went on to win the 2001 Big 12 tournament. 

“This group is exactly representative of what fans started falling in love with our program,” Fennelly said. “These are the exact same kinds of people, and they can really play too.”

The Cyclones are coming off the back of a program record 28-win season. Along with a projected first-place conference finish, Iowa State also picked up some individual preseason accolades. 

Joens was selected as the Big 12 preseason player of the year. Joens, Ryan and Donarski were also voted for preseason all-conference players. Despite the attention, there is a focus to work towards leaving a legacy as a team, rather than just as a player.

“I don’t know so much about ‘Emily Ryan,’ more so just the team. We’re worried about being seen as a team, even if that’s not wins and losses,” Ryan said, in regards to leaving an individual legacy.

Despite earning a record number of regular season wins, there is still more room for growth. Iowa State finished second in the Big 12 last season and fell in overtime to Texas in the conference tournament semifinals. 

While the team reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2010, Iowa State was upset by No. 10 Creighton. The preseason attention has been abundant, but there is still a desire to accomplish more than a winning season. 

“Preseason rankings don’t really mean anything compared to what happens at the end of the season,” Donarski said. “So, we have to go into each game ready to win and ready to play hard, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the conference.”