March 22, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Theairra Taylor, a redshirt senior on the University of Iowa women's basketball team, has been part of five special teams during her time in Iowa City.
All five teams have advanced to the Big Dance. Countless memories and friendships have been forged along the way. The 2013-14 squad though is different.
There is just something about this group.
"This has been the closest team I've been on during my time at Iowa," said Taylor. "It's a fun group of girls that love hanging out with each other. We have great team chemistry."
"The coaches are always saying how special this team is, and it really is," said junior Melissa Dixon. "I have never been a part of a team that is this close and who genuinely plays for each other and wants to win for one another."
Iowa (26-8) enters the NCAA Tournament leading the Big Ten in overall victories (26). Only 18 teams nationally, including 10 from major conferences, have more wins than Iowa. There are 343 Division I teams.
This group has already enjoyed success and numerous accomplishments this season, but it wants to keep playing. Mostly, it wants to keep playing for one another.
"We don't want this season to end," said Dixon. "We want to keep playing as long as we can, starting with Sunday."
The 19th-ranked Hawkeyes, a No. 6 seed, will face 11th-seeded Marist (27-6, 18-2) from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at approximately 7 p.m. (CT) on Sunday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
Iowa has won six of its last seven games entering the NCAA Tournament.
"At this point in the season, to keep playing with this group, we have to keep winning," said Taylor. "That is motivation. Next year, like every year, this group will be different, minus me, with four freshmen coming in. We definitely want to keep this run going."
Taylor is the lone senior on the 11-player Hawkeye roster. The other 10 Hawkeyes -- three freshmen, four sophomores, and three juniors -- want to keep playing for one another, especially for their Hawkeye senior.
"It is so fun playing with this team," said sophomore Nicole Smith. "Leading toward the end of the season, we just want to be with Theairra and keep our tight-knit group together as long as we can."
"Sunday is the first step. Getting that first win last year was such a great feeling. It would be great to get another win Sunday for Theairra."
The Iowa City First and Second round site is a part of the Louisville region. No. 3 Louisville will take on No. 14 Idaho in the first game on Sunday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 4:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN. The two winners will meet in the Second Round on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. (CT).
Fans can order tickets by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, visiting the Carver-Hawkeye Arena ticket office, or by visiting hawkeyesports.com.