A Cinderella Season


by Gabe Gilson/Staff Writer

Another successful season is in the books for the Storm women’s basketball team after losing on March 6 in Bloomington, Ill., to Illinois Wesleyan in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, one day after beating the University of Chicago.

The Storm won the Iowa Conference tournament on Feb. 27 after beating Coe 65-61 to wrap conference play with a 13-3 mark and a 23-6 overall record.

The Storm also was lucky enough to have three members on the All-Conference team. Sophomore center Stacey Schutjer of Titonka and senior guard Katie Kitzman of Gilman earned first team All-Conference honors while junior guard Amy Hamilton of Ames earned second team honors.

Coach Brian Niemuth was very pleased with the effort his team showed this year as well as happy about the All-Conference nods.

“I’m pretty happy considering we lost seven seniors from last year,” Niemuth said. “We had a lot of new players and I thought it might be a rebuilding year but I think overall it was a great year.”

The Storm will graduate four players from the 2009-10 season, but this should probably not slow the team down too much for next season. Kitzman, who averaged 13.3 points and 4.0 rebounds a game, will graduate but has high expectations for her teammates next season.

“I think if they put in the work which I know they are capable of and with the coaches we have, they will be outstanding,” Kitzman said. “They have the experience and the tools; with Stacey (Schutjer), the point guards and shooting guards coming back they should be really good.”

For Schutjer, the six-foot-two-inch sophomore who led the conference in blocked shots with 63 while averaging 15.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, making the All-Conference team was a humbling experience.

“It’s quite an honor but any of the girls on our team deserve it,” Schutjer said.

According to Schutjer, next season should exciting.

“I’m really excited about it,” Schutjer said. “We had a lot of people gain experience so we’ll really have a good team coming back next year.”

A high point in the season for the Storm came Jan. 9 after an overtime victory against Loras in Indianola. After that, the Storm went on a roll, winning 10 straight games between then and Feb. 6.

For now, the off season will consist of weightlifting, recruiting and summer ball for the returning members. For Niemuth, looking back on the season made him realize a few surprises.

“I was surprised with how fast the team meshed together,” Niemuth said. “We had a lot of players and I knew they had the ability, but it was a much different team from a year ago and they meshed quicker than I expected them to.”

Kitzman had similar thoughts when thinking about this year’s team compared to last year’s.

“It was surprising how good we ended up being,” Kitzman said. “We were a totally different team and how different we were with last year’s team was a surprise also.”

For Schutjer, making the NCAA Tournament provided a lot of pride for the season.

“I’m really proud of the way we ended the season,” Schutjer said. “Not many people expected a lot from us so it was good to prove them wrong.”

Schutjer is one of 40 finalists for the 2010 State Farm Coaches’ All-America Team.