A Special Journey

April 14, 2014

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s April edition of Hawk Talk Monthly, the UI athletics department’s online publication.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Trailing late in the second half of its Second Round NCAA Tournament game against fourth-ranked Louisville, University of Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder called for a sub. The substitution was for senior Theairra Taylor.

The Hawkeyes’ lone senior exited the Carver-Hawkeye Arena parquet for the final time to a standing ovation, marking the end of an incredible journey for both Taylor, and the 2013-14 Iowa women’s basketball team.

Taylor, a native of St. Paul, Minn., suffered her third ACL injury in a 20-month span during preseason workouts in 2010, and missed a total of 53 games with ACL injuries from 2009 through 2011.

She battled back and played in every game during her last three seasons, while starting every contest during the last two years.

The fifth-year senior overcame adversity throughout her career, but that is not what she will remember most from her days in Iowa City.

“It will be the connections with my teammates,” said the 2013-14 team co-captain. “It’s a great group of girls in that locker room.

“I’ve played with so many players. They still contact me now. Building those relationships that last longer than those basketball memories… that’s what I will remember most.”

Taylor was a member of five Hawkeye teams, but this one was special. She and the other 10 Hawkeyes — three freshmen, four sophomores, and three juniors — compiled an expansive list of accomplishments this year, and thoroughly enjoyed playing for one another.

“Awesome,” said Taylor when asked to summarize the season. “I played with a great group of girls and competed for a great coaching staff. We didn’t go out the way we wanted to, but coach said we can’t remember the season off of just this game.

“This is one of my favorite seasons being here as a Hawkeye. It’s something I want to remember as a wonderful journey.”

The journey featured 27 wins, equaling the second-highest total in program history, and 14 home wins, also equaling the second-most in school history.

Iowa was 1-of-14 teams nationally — the only Big Ten team — to make its seventh-straight NCAA Tournament appearance this season, and 1-of-21 teams to advance to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.

The Hawkeyes will be without Taylor next season, but the future is bright for the program. Iowa returns 10 letterwinners and adds a highly-ranked four-player recruiting class. Christina Buttenham (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), Chase Coley (Minneapolis), Whitney Jennings (Logansport, Ind.), and Carly Mohns (Brodhead, Wis.) will join the program in the fall. Coley and Jennings were recently named the 2013-14 Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year in their respective states.