Iowa women’s basketball returns to court after COVID-19 pause

Head coach Lisa Bluder did not specify how many people in the program contracted COVID-19 during the two-week long pause.


Grace Smith

Iowa center Monika Czinano and forward AJ Ediger celebrate a three pointer during an exhibition women’s basketball game between Iowa and Truman State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bulldogs 102-32.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

After a two-week long pause, Iowa women’s basketball will return to action on Thursday against Duke.

The Hawkeyes had to cancel three consecutive games because of positive COVID-19 cases in the program, including a matchup with in-state rival Drake and a trip to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge over Thanksgiving.

“It was really just a feeling of helplessness,” head coach Lisa Bluder said on Wednesday. “You can’t really do anything about it. You know, we tell our team all the time, ‘control the controls,’ and this was one that we didn’t have any control over.”

Bluder did not specify how many people were affected by the COVID-19 outbreak that shut down the program, but said it impacted, “a lot of staff and a lot of players.”

Bluder also said she didn’t know how many athletes and staff within the women’s basketball program are vaccinated against COVID-19. The Hawkeye men’s basketball team announced over the summer that 100 percent of its athletes, coaches, and training staff have received a COVID-19 vaccination.

The Iowa athletic department does not require its student-athletes to get vaccinated.

Now, Iowa women’s basketball will head into its first road matchup off an unexpected two-week break. And the 4-0 Hawkeyes are hoping to quickly shake off the rust.

“Going into this game, it’s obviously very important as far as the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, two undefeated teams going up against each other,” Bluder said. “But also, you worry as a coach about being a little rusty when you haven’t played for a couple weeks. [Duke] has had more opportunities to grow and get better, that’s what makes us nervous.”

RELATED: Iowa women’s basketball cancels three games

The Blue Devils are 6-0 on the season and played two games over Thanksgiving week. Duke defeated Appalachian State, 73-65, on Nov. 24, and took down Troy University, 91-75, on Nov. 28.

But some Hawkeyes did practice throughout their two-week break. Bluder said the players who didn’t test positive had the ability to practice freely. The Hawkeyes practiced as a full team for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak on Monday.

“[Practice] was so fun,” senior center Monika Czinano said. “I felt like I hadn’t seen people in so long. It also felt nice to have kind of all our pieces back and everything flowing. You try to make it work with a limited number, and it does, but you can tell that it’s not what it needs to be. So, it’s just great to have everything moving, flowing again like we knew it would.”

With ample amounts of veteran experience on the roster, sophomore point guard Caitlin Clark isn’t worried about potential rust when the Hawkeyes take the floor on Thursday night.

“I mean, it’s nice when your whole starting five is returning from last year,” Clark said. “I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat, obviously. Maybe a little rust here and there, but we know what we’re going to do, our coaching staff knows what we’re going to do.”

The Hawkeyes will tip-off against the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, at 8 p.m. The game will be aired on ESPN.

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