Iowa State women’s basketball ready to show off offseason progress


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Bill Fennelly yells on the court during the second round NCAA tournament game against No.6 Georgia March 20th, 2022. 

Christian Royston, Sports Reporter

The Iowa State women’s basketball team will get its first chance to see the fruits of its labor as it takes on Winona State at home on Wednesday.

Although it is an exhibition game, it will be the first time fans get to see Iowa State back at Hilton since the end of last season. A new season brings new excitement and new faces. The team may have retained a majority of its players, but new players are looking for a shot at a spot in the lineup.

“I want the fans to see everyone and see what we’re about,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said.

The team has been working hard over the offseason to make improvements in the few areas they lack. The Cyclones rarely saw struggles last season, making a deep run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Of course, perfection is the goal, and the losses last season shed light on what could propel the Cyclones to the next level. Although Winona State may not be at the caliber of teams like Texas, Baylor or Creighton, the Cyclones are not going to take it easy.

“Even though it’s not a game that counts, it still matters,” Ashley Joens said.

It is safe to say the Iowa State fan base plays a large role in the success of the team. No matter the opponent, the Cyclones have to take advantage of the limited chances they have to experience Hilton Magic.

“They only get to play 16 times at Hilton. I don’t care who you’re playing,” Fennelly said. “It matters to our fans, and it matters to our players.”

The exhibition game should give the team a chance to show off some new weapons they acquired and skills they developed over the offseason. One big name that has been causing a stir of excitement in the air surrounding the team is transfer Stephanie Soares.

Soares brings much-needed length and defensive prowess to the team, as she is every bit of the six-foot-six height that she boasts. Fennelly has made it clear on multiple occasions that Soares will add another dimension to the offense, taking some attention away from Joens and others. The true test for Soares will come when she takes on tough Big 12 competition.

“The pace, the physicality is a learning curve for her, obviously,” Fennelly said. “She’s done really, really well.”

Lastly, Soares will add a lot of versatility to the team. The other player that Fennelly noted when talking about versatility was Nyamer Diew.

Whether it comes to playing in the post or knocking down shots from beyond the arc, both players can adapt to the role that’s asked of them. The added versatility, along with the already impressive offensive capabilities, will allow the Cyclones to match up well with any team in the nation.

“There’s days when you could arguably say [Nyamer] is our best post player,” Fennelly said. “There’s days when the best 3-point shooter in practice is [Stephanie].”

Of course, it’s easy to expect greatness, but no one really knows how the season will play out. On paper, the team should be the best it has been in years. However, growing pains are always expected with new faces.

The offseason gave the team plenty of time to get over the growing pains and develop their teamwork. Now, the only thing left to do is hit the court and show off how much they’ve improved.

“We have a lot of good pieces; it’s just getting them all to mesh together,” Joens said. “As we continue playing with each other and the season goes on and we get more experience, it’s just going to get better from there.”

Wednesday will be the first real test to see where the team is at. It may just be an exhibition game, but the Cyclones are going to put it all on the court to give the fans what they want.