Iowa State women’s basketball opens season with Cleveland State


Jacob Rice

Ashley Joens shoots for three during the second round of the NCAA Tournament against No.6 Georgia on March 20, 2022. 

The long-awaited 2022-23 women’s basketball season is finally here, as the Cyclones are gearing up to take on Cleveland State in the season opener.

Iowa State will have home-court advantage as they play in Ames Monday morning. The Cyclones got a taste of what the season will bring, taking down Winona State in an exhibition game earlier in the week.

The Cyclones breezed to a 104-47 win in front of a home crowd. The team got a good look at what the offense is capable of and what the new faces on the team could bring.

Although the exhibition game didn’t count stats-wise, the experience was crucial in getting the season off on the right foot.

“Just seeing what we did tonight and how we played together and using that to drive us forward gives a huge confidence boost knowing what we can do,” Ashley Joens said.

Iowa State came into the season with high expectations, ranking first in the Big 12 preseason poll and snagging the No. 8 spot on the AP Top 25 Poll. The Cyclones returned most of their team, including all the starters in last season’s Sweet 16 run.

The offseason pickups will also add depth to an already stacked team. Head coach Bill Fennelly noted how great it is to have that depth after Wednesday’s win. Fennelly said the team might as well have seven starters with the addition of Stephanie Soares and Denae Fritz to the 2022-23 lineup.

Soares proved to the college basketball world that she could hang with the big dogs. The true star of the exhibition game was Soares, as her 26 points played a large part in the Cyclones’ success.

Soares also demonstrated how much of an asset her length brings to the defensive side of the court. The opposing team struggled all night to put shots up past the 6-foot-6 forward. Sometimes the best offense is a great defense, which was truer than ever in the exhibition game.

“Just continuing to keep that tenacity up on defense and use that to drive the offense,” Joens said.

Improving the defense was a large focus during the offseason. To create offensive opportunities, the defense has to come up with stops.

Of course, the defense from last season was no pushover. Lexi Donarski snagged Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in the 2021-22 season, with her teammate Emily Ryan leading the team in steals.

The exhibition game allowed the team to work out last-minute adjustments and improvements. To compete with other top teams in the Big 12, the Cyclones have to be at their best.

For now, the team is only looking at the road ahead and taking it one step at a time. Monday will be the real deal and the true first test for the Cyclones.

“Now it’s time to go to work,” Fennelly said.

Iowa State will face off against Cleveland State at 11 a.m. Monday at Hilton Coliseum. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.