Iowa looking to lean on veteran leaders in wake of Tania Davis injury
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Not long after the crushing news permeated through the program, there were already signs of reassurance. A new obstacle, though, now lies in the way.
“I’m getting texts from them (Monday) night, ‘We’ve got this,’” Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said Tuesday, “and that’s just what you want from your captains and your leaders — them already showing that optimism and that belief in themselves and their teammates.”
The first test comes Thursday, when the No. 25 Hawkeyes (11-1) go for the in-state sweep at home against Drake (5-6) in their first game without Tania Davis. A win would finish off an impressive surge through the nonconference slate and keep momentum flowing heading into Big Ten play, which begins at Wisconsin on Dec. 28.
Mentally, Davis’ loss will take some time to process. The junior point guard’s ACL and medial meniscus tear suffered in Sunday’s win at Northern Iowa is her second such injury in a little more than 10 months, and another daunting rehab process lies ahead. More painful: The outlook appeared cautiously optimistic upon leaving Cedar Falls, only for the ensuing MRI to reveal the worst. That shock certainly stung.
On the court, though, there appear to be pieces in place to mitigate the Davis loss. Bluder reiterated that redshirt freshman Alexis Sevillian will slide into the starting lineup, which she did earlier this season when Kathleen Doyle was briefly sidelined with an ankle injury.
Sevillian averaged 13 points per game in the four contests she started last month, and although Bluder will no longer have that forceful, trusted weapon off the bench, there is an abundance of confidence in the 5-foot-5 guard. Coming off the redshirt season, Sevillian has found a nice rhythm through the first 12 games, already averaging 25.5 minutes and 11.3 points per contest as Iowa’s leading 3-point shooter.
“I’m extremely comfortable,” Sevillian said, “whether it’s me coming off the bench or starting. When Doyle went down, I think myself and the team did a great job to help fulfill her role, so it’s — not the same position — but similar.”
Doyle said she’ll be shifting back to the primary point guard, which she did last season alongside Makenzie Meyer, after Davis went down in February. The circumstances for the move are certainly unfortunate, but Doyle entered the Iowa program with plenty of point-guard experience and shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with the transition.
Iowa won't have to wait long to find out where its team psyche is. Thursday will be a nice, immediate test to see how locked-in the focus is as everyone adjusts to this painful, sudden change.
"Losing one of our main pieces is obviously a big blow to us," Doyle said, "but everyone has confidence that everyone is going to step up and that we’ll be fine, just making sure that everyone remains confident in themselves.
"Tania knows and everyone knows that we’re going to play for her and that we can pick up her pieces and continue on rolling."
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.