Oct. 12, 2011
"We wanted to build on what we learned last year whether it was the attitude on how to approach practice, how to approach a game, how to be a team player or how to be a Hawkeye," said Looper, who guided Iowa to a 27-24 record in her first season as the head coach. "When you add eight new players to that mix it changes things pretty quickly."
Iowa brought in eight players from five states and Canada in Megan Blank (Culver City, Calif.), Sydney Reynolds (Platte City, Mo.), Melanie Gladden (Asher, Okla.), Tor Hawley (Eldridge, Iowa), Malloree Grove (Indianola, Iowa), Brittanee Grove (Indianola, Iowa), Katie Holmes (Omaha, Neb.) and Bradi Wall (Swift Current, Sask., Canada). The squad returns a total of 10 letterwinners.
"The nice thing is the newcomers jumped in head first and were ready to do whatever was asked of them," said Looper. "That was the fun part, and they had the work ethic to go with it as well.
"We had people playing positions that they maybe never have played before. It's all about fitting the puzzle pieces together, but when it comes to attitude, effort, enthusiasm and things like that, they've jumped in without any issue and elevated us a little bit."
Iowa opened the fall season by posting convincing victories over Iowa Central Community College (10-5) and Indian Hills Community College (20-1) before going 1-2 at the Big Four Classic in Des Moines. The Hawkeyes topped Drake (1-0), and fell to both Iowa State (9-1(5) and Northern Iowa (4-2).
The team got back on track with a doubleheader sweep over Kirkwood Community College (10-2, 9-1) before closing out the fall with an 8-2 victory over Muscatine Community College on Oct. 7.
"I think we started out pretty quick, but unfortunately, we kind of dipped a little and picked back up," said Looper. "It was kind of a roller coaster ride this fall. People say it's your youth and all the new players, but I think it was focus from week-to-week.
"More of it was a lack of confidence. We came in thinking we were better than we were because we've had some success against some community colleges. Then reality hit, we tightened up real quick, and didn't allow ourselves to keep playing the way we had been.
"We have to learn to be more consistent overall. We've got to learn to play with the big dogs and beat up on the puppies, unfortunately. We can't just show up and expect to win."
The team has used the fall season to come together as a group through daily conditioning and practice starting at 6 a.m.
"They've started to form a little bit because they have had to fight through some things that they don't normally have to do," said Looper. "The 6 a.m.'s have helped us form a different type of bond and more quickly. It has helped us grow in a sense, but we still have a long ways to go to be one unit."
The Hawkeyes open their spring season at the Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas, on Feb. 10-12. The complete schedule will be announced later this fall.