Lisa Bluder made it clear early in the season that despite the loss of some key players and a young roster she had established high goals for her team.
If Iowa keeps up its current pace Bluder is going to have to establish an even loftier set of expectations.
Back-to-back wins over Nebraska and Rutgers to open Big Ten play has Iowa (12-2, 2-0) knocking on the door of its first 3-0 conference start in 16 seasons under Bluder.
The 2-0 conference record also has the Hawkeyes 20 percent of the way to Bluder's goal of 10 Big Ten wins.
“We always like to set goals that are hard to get but yet attainable, we aren’t saying we are going to go 18-0 in the Big Ten, we aren’t saying that because that puts a lot of pressure on our players,” Bluder said. “Goals can always be readjusted once you reach them, that is kind of our philosophy, so right now the goal is still 10.”
Bluder actually had a pair of 10-win goals for her team this season.
The first goal was to win 10 nonconference games.
Iowa accomplished that, finishing its nonconference slate 10-2.
Now the Hawkeyes are making quick work of their second 10-win challenge.
Monday’s 69-65 win over Rutgers improved Iowa to 2-0 in Big Ten play for the second straight season and third time in Bluder’s tenure.
“We have a long conference season ahead of us and I still think 10 is the goal, that we need to try to get to 10,” Bluder said. “Once we get to 10 we’ll move it to 11, once we get to 11 we’re going to move it to 12.”
Thursday’s road game at Michigan (8-5, 0-2) brings a hurdle the Hawkeyes haven’t cleared in Bluder’s time at Iowa.
Iowa hasn’t opened conference play 3-0 since winning four straight to open the 1997-98 season.
“I think this is something that our coaches would really appreciate getting that kind of off their chest, that 3-0 start, and I think our team is more than capable of doing it,” Iowa senior Kali Peschel said. “We are playing so well right now and the focus is there for this game.”
At 2-0, Iowa joins fifth-ranked Ohio State and early-season conference surprise Purdue as the only remaining unbeatens in Big Ten play.
Eighth-ranked Maryland, which dropped its first game since joining the Big Ten before last season last Saturday against Ohio State, will travel to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes on Sunday.
If Maryland is facing an Iowa team that is unbeaten in Big Ten play, a big matchup gets even bigger for both teams.
“Starting 3-0, it would be huge and it would give us momentum going into the game against Maryland,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft said. “It would give us momentum just going forward and give us confidence, but we are happy with where we are at, we are just hoping we can keep improving.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.