Emotions on the sleeve: 'Fiery' Kathleen Doyle brings the noise when Iowa needs it
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Over the course of 40 minutes, you’ll witness her full arsenal of antics. There’ll be plenty of clapping and a little yapping — and don’t forget the facial expressions. They range from intensely aggressive to emotionally charged.
That’s just how Kathleen Doyle rolls.
“I think everyone has told her, 'we’re so glad you’re on our team,’” teammate Tania Davis said. “But if you were on the opposing team, we’d probably kill you.”
On an Iowa squad that has flawlessly meshed personalities en route to a special season, Doyle is the one who brings the noise.
Her infectious energy, stifling defense and a knack for rattling opposing stars is a pivotal reason why the Hawkeyes are on the doorstep of their first Elite Eight appearance since 1993. Iowa will need more of the same from Doyle come Saturday afternoon, when the Hawkeyes (28-6) face North Carolina State (28-5) at 10:30 a.m. (CT) inside Greensboro Coliseum.
“If you watch the game, you can see me out there getting fired up and things like that,” Doyle said. “Everyone knows that’s my role on the team.
“I don’t know, I’ve always had so much fun playing basketball. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m always smiling out there. It’s just because I love to play. It’s so much fun. Bringing that energy and that fun and that passion really brings it out of other people. It makes you better, I think.”
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When searching for the source of Doyle’s fiery demeanor, start with the family tree. As the youngest of six with siblings doubling as high-end athletes, adolescent years were spent trying to hold her own in a crowded household.
Brother Mick (Notre Dame baseball) and sister Sheila (North Carolina volleyball) were the first Division I Doyles. A second sister Annie played basketball at Saint Mary’s College.
Examples were everywhere on how to thrive.
“We’re a super competitive family,” Doyle said, “So maybe that’s where I got it from. It definitely made me better. I had to work probably twice as hard to keep up with my (siblings). I always had to work hard to be in the game, even when I was younger. They set a great example for me growing up. They worked so hard in everything they did, and I wanted to be just like them.”
Doyle has gotten that shot in Iowa City. After a solid first season that included 29 starts and all-conference freshman team honors, the 5-foot-9 guard has ascended into one of the Big Ten’s best guards.
Even if shots aren’t falling, Doyle’s value comes with her defensive prowess. She’ll gladly welcome guarding a foe’s most potent weapon — many times with success.
Most recently, Doyle was a hefty factor in locking down Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham, who had just eight points in Iowa’s 68-52 second-round win. It was her lowest scoring total in two months.
Another sizable challenge awaits. Doyle will likely be on Wolfpack standout Kiara Leslie for most, if not all of Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen showdown. The grad transfer guard leads North Carolina State in scoring (15.9 ppg) and ranks second in made 3-pointers (68).
If Doyle gets pumping, look for the excitement. It’ll come in bunches.
“Whether it’s a steal or she makes a huge basket, she’s going to come back on defense and clap in that star player’s face,” Davis said. “You can just see — especially when you’re on the court — you’ll see that player just look at her with confusion. At that point, you know Kathleen’s in her head.”
Fellow Hawkeyes are glad they see the Doyle effect from the vantage point they have. Teammates have witnessed plenty of opposing frustration and animosity when Doyle does her thing.
Those in black and gold just laugh.
“If I had to play against her, I don’t know if I’d like her,” junior guard Makenzie Meyer said with a smile. “She definitely annoys other players. She just brings a fiery energy to our team. When the other team goes on a run, that’s really what you need to be able to bounce back.”
Iowa needed Doyle’s boost in its first two NCAA Tournament wins, where the Hawkeyes needed every ounce of fight to push past Mercer and didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter against Missouri. With what’s expected to be a pro-Wolfpack crowd in Greensboro, jolts of energy from the passionate Doyle could help keep Iowa afloat.
Plenty of emotion will follow if the Hawkeyes emerge victorious.
“I just have fun when I’m playing,” Doyle said. “I’m just out there trying to provide energy where it’s needed."
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.