Women’s basketball holds up morale despite losing streak

Bridget Carleton, freshman guard, scored 15 points during the Oklahoma game on Jan. 30 at Hilton Coliseum. This was her 14th game scoring in double digits.

Luke Manderfeld

At the beginning of the 2015-16 season, ISU coach Bill Fennelly previewed his team with the coaching staff. 

He looked down at the roster and saw six underclassmen — four freshmen and two sophomores. If anything, he knew this season was going to be different than in years past. 

“I told the staff at the beginning of the year that it wasn’t going to be normal, if there is a such thing as normal in college sports,” Fennelly said.

Now that the calendar has flipped to February, Fennelly has seen just how odd the season has been.

Iowa State (11-9, 3-6 Big 12) is in the midst of a five-game skid, its first since the 2011-12 season, and takes on Kansas (5-16, 0-10 Big 12) at Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night — a tough place for Fennelly’s teams to play, historically. 

But his sentiment at the beginning of the season only touched on the youth of his team. He didn’t foresee the numerous injuries plaguing the team through the December and January part of the schedule. 

But that doesn’t mean he’s making any excuses. 

“You don’t plan for that,” Fennelly said. “It is what it is, and we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to coach better and we’re not making excuses for anything. We’ve got to find a way to do things the way we need to do them to win games. That’s the responsibility of the coaches and the players.”

Although the coaches and players are struggling to find a way to win, they aren’t having trouble keeping spirits high. Even in the roughest stretch of the season, the team’s upbeat attitude hasn’t wavered. 

“Our morale is fine,” said ISU coach Bill Fennelly. “The players have an amazing ability to move on quicker than coaches, fans, media people.” 

The resiliency isn’t what Fennelly expected to see from his squad, though. 

With such a young team, Fennelly didn’t forecast his team would take a rough stretch so well. In fact, he only remembers a few teams from his coaching career that took losing streaks in stride. 

“It does surprise me that they’ve maintained their approach,” Fennelly said. “But I think this team — the thing that’s helped them is they all get along. It’s not a group that points fingers at anyone. They care about one another. I think they really care about their seniors.” 

To senior Kidd Blaskowsky, the team’s constant morale level hasn’t surprised her, even with the youth. To her, the young players are the ones that keep the fire going even in the rough stretches. 

That doesn’t mean that the tough stretch hasn’t been frustrating. 

“It is very frustrating, especially when you want to be great,” Blaskowsky said. “And you want to be on the top half of the Big 12. When you have young talent like that, the heart is always there. We love the game of basketball. Everybody is excited to come to practice even when it’s a win or loss. When times do get hard, you’ve got to find way.”

And the Cyclones will try to find a way Tuesday night to pull out their first victory since beating Kansas on Jan. 9. It will come down to Fennelly’s formula for success to end the losing streak: effort and execution, Fennelly said. 

“We’re in a stage in our season where we’ve got to figure some things out,” Fennelly said. “February is a big month for us, and we’ve got nine games to go. And it’s just one of the things I tell my players all the time, ‘Anyone can start anything — special people finish.’ Finish what you’ve started.”