Post play powers Cyclones to win over Cleveland State


Jacob Rice

Morgan Kane goes for a layup during Iowa State’s win against No.6 Georgia March 20, 2022. 

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

No. 8 Iowa State opened its highly anticipated season with a dominant win over Cleveland State Monday morning. The backcourt played as advertised, but the frontcourt showed a new versatility down low. 

The Cyclones returned several key pieces to its record-setting 28-win team, including All-Big 12 players Emily Ryan, Lexi Donarski and All-American Ashley Joens, who led the team with 28 points. 

The backcourt delivered an expectedly stellar performance, helping Iowa State to an 87-54 win. But the addition of grad-transfer Stephanie Soares gives the Cyclones a new look under the basket.

“I’ve been here a long time but we’ve never had someone like that. Ever,” head coach Bill Fennelly said.

Soares made her presence known early. 

She was voted NAIA player of the year twice during her time at The Master’s University and played on the NAIA All-American team three times. Despite moving to a higher level of competition, Soares took no time to find a rhythm as she was able to score, find a block and earn a steal within the first minute of the season. 

From the initial tip, Soares’ size acted as a major advantage in Iowa State’s favor. 

“I think she’s shown in two games, that unique ability she has at both ends of the floor to help our team,” Fennelly said. 

She was a physical anchor for the Cyclones under the basket, controlling space down low and acting as a constant offensive threat, earning 15 points and 14 rebounds. 

She also showcased the defense that made her a three-time defensive player of the year for the Golden State Athletic Conference. Her four blocks kept Cleveland State guards out of the lane, helping hold the Vikings to 54 points. 

Although Soares started hot, early foul trouble forced her to sit out the entire second quarter. When she was out, Iowa State leaned on its versatility. 

“Steph got in foul trouble, so I think our other two bigs really stepped up (today),” sophomore Denae Fritz said. 

When Soares was out, senior Morgan Kane was the go-to option down low. Kane contributed six points and eight rebounds in her 13 minutes of play.

Unlike Soares, who can shoot from behind the arc, Kane frees up other shooters with her constant presence in the post. Her ability to enable other players helped the offense remain efficient, even without Soares’ scoring potential. 

“Mo’ is Mo’,” Fennelly said of Morgan Kane. “You know what you’re gonna get, she’s efficient, she’s smart, she talks.” 

Iowa State also played with five guards, using junior Nyamer Diew as a third option down low. When Soares returned, all three players moved around. Soares and Kane were both on the court at the same time at one point, and by the end of the game, Diew was playing point guard.

“It’s a credit to the kids. They’re very bright, they’re very fundamental, they show up,” Fennelly said. 

Soares was the missing piece Iowa State needed. But for the first time in a while, the Cyclones have options in the paint.