ISU Women Back in Familiar Spot

Being a part of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament is something the Iowa State women had become accustomed to. But the Cyclones' latest trip, their seventh in 10 years, is feeling that much more special.

Seventh-seeded Iowa State (23-6) will face #10 Utah in this weekend's first round. Bill Fennelly's team was placed in the Kansas City regional, but will need to record a pair of victories in Fresno, Calif., before returning to Hilton South.

Either way, ISU players and coaches are appreciative of their seeding.

"The number one point of this team all year long was to get in the NCAA Tournament," said Fennelly. "It's a great honor to see Iowa State's name come up there. It's not just about women's basketball, but about our University. Any place you go is fun. We get to go somewhere warm and travel. My son was born in Fresno, so maybe that will bring us some luck. I used to coach there."

But nothing came easy on Sunday, and that includes the waiting. ISU wasn't announced until nearly the end of ESPN's Selection Show, a program that had already been delayed 15 minutes by the end of the Big 12 Men's Tournament final.

But with 23 wins in 29 games, the Cyclones already had a good feeling that they'd be going dancing.

"It seemed like it kept going on forever, but we're happy with where we're going," said senior guard Anne O'Neil, who is making her first trip to the NCAA Tournament. "We're excited to go out there and be a part of everything."

Fennelly had similar feelings while waiting to hear where his team was headed.

"As you saw the teams and looked at the seeding, you kind of felt like that's the way it was headed," he said. "You could tell everybody was getting a little nervous and quiet. Somebody made the comment, ‘What if you're not in?' But when I saw Oklahoma get in, I knew we were in fairly good shape because of where we finished in our league."

In a way, ISU's program has come full circle. Fennelly's first NCAA Tournament game as head coach of the Cyclones was Utah. The two programs faced off that year in Virginia, and the Utes came out on top.

Just thinking back makes the Cyclone head coach realize how far the program has come.

"Ten years ago when we came here, the thought of making any NCAA Tournament was a long shot," Fennelly said. "This team has been committed to this from the beginning of the year. The NIT run last year gave us a lot of enthusiasm heading into the year. This team has been led by the seniors from day one and this is an appropriate way for them to finish."

If ISU is to advance this weekend it would likely face second-seeded Stanford, which has a first-round matchup against Santa Clara.

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