Connections Run Deep

Dec. 20, 2014


Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — As long as Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, and Jenni Fitzgerald are coaches for the University of Iowa women’s basketball program, there will be always be extra meaning when the Hawkeyes face Drake on the hardwood.

Sunday’s game at the Knapp Center in Des Moines will be no different.


Anytime you spend a decade some place (it is special)… we opened up the Knapp Center,” said Bluder. “I coached Jan Jensen, and her jersey hangs in the arena as a reminder that she is one of only two women to have their jersey retired at Drake. Jenni and Jan both played there, and that means a lot; both are winners of the Double D award. We care a lot about it.”

Bluder — one-of-10 active major college coaches with 600 or more wins — coached 10 successful seasons (1990-2000) at Drake before taking over the Hawkeye program.

Jensen and Fitzgerald both played and coached at Drake and received the Drake Double D Award, which is the highest honor Drake bestows on its student-athletes.

Over the last few years, the game has added a couple extra connections to spice up the rivalry.

For the third year in a row, the Hawkeye staff will be game-planning against a familiar face; Drake head coach Jennie (Lillis) Baranczyk. Baranczyk was a four-year letterwinner at Iowa, graduating in 2004. She was an honorable mention All-American and a three-time All-Big Ten selection. She ranks fifth in career scoring (1,762), sixth in blocks (114), seventh in rebounds (827), ninth in steals (190) and 14th in assists (297).

“Jennie is a former Hawkeye… one of the first players we had here at Iowa, and a great player. Even though we are 15 years removed from coaching there, there are still a lot of good friends in Des Moines.”

Junior Claire Till’s mother, Shelley, is also a Drake alum. Shelley is Iowa’s radio color analyst.

Shelley Till, mother of Hawkeye junior Claire Till, and Missy Disterhoft, mother of Iowa sophomore Ally Disterhoft, played basketball at Drake and were teammates with Jensen and Fitzgerald.

“It is a cool situation being that both my mom and Ally’s mom played there, and now we’re teammates and get to play their former school each year,” said Till.

“It is always a fun game with some extra meaning,” said Disterhoft. “My mom is always going to cheer for her daughter, so we have the Hawkeye family going now.”

Once the game tips off at 2:05 p.m. (CT) on Sunday, the Hawkeyes will be locked in to finishing the nonconference slate with a win and taking a three-game winning streak into conference play.

“The Drake game is big,” said junior Kali Peschel. “We have had some time off with finals. This would be a great true road win for us that we have not had yet.”

Iowa’s first true road win of the season would mean a sweep of in-state rivals Drake, Iowa State, and UNI.

“It is one of our top goals every season to be state champs,” said senior Melissa Dixon. “This is our last opportunity this season.”

Sunday’s nonconference finale can be seen live on Mediacom Connections (MC22).

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