January 2013

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State Championship a Focus For Bluder By Aaron Blau L isa Bluder has spent her entire basketball career in the state of Iowa. It only makes sense that winning the "mythical state championship" among the state's four Division I schools means so much to the Marion, Iowa, native. "It's important just for pride," Bluder said. "It's important because you want to represent the state and you want to be the school that's superior in the state." Iowa's game against Drake has more meaning for the Iowa staff. Not only did Bluder lead Drake to Bluder and the University of Iowa women's five 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, basketball team wrapped up the mythical state title assistant coach Jenni Fitzgerald was a first team with an 82-65 win at Drake on Dec. 16. Iowa went all-conference performer as a Bulldog, and a perfect 3-0 against its in-state counterparts this associate head coach Jan Jensen has her jersey year for the fifth time under Bluder. While at Iowa, retired and hanging from in the Knapp Center Bluder has won 26 games against in-state schools rafters. and she has won more than 70 percent of the contests against Iowa State, Drake and Northern Add the fact that one of the all-time greats to wear Iowa. an Iowa uniform, Jennie (Lillis) Baranczyk, is now the head coach at Drake, and the rivalry has Bluder starred at Linn-Mar High School in Marion become even more interesting. and was a three-year starter at Northern Iowa. Her first coaching job was at St. Ambrose in Davenport "The rivalry kind of re-energized itself with Jennie before spending 10 years at Drake. Now in her going to Drake as a coach," Bluder said. "When 13th season as a Hawkeye, Bluder stresses the goal you add that Jennie Lillis is sitting in my old office, of being the best team in the state. it's kind of a strange feeling." "That is always one of our goals at the beginning of the year," Bluder said of the mythical state championship. "It's been a strong rivalry among everybody in the state. Every one of us in the state, all four schools, wants to have that state championship. We would be lying if we said we didn't. All of us want it." The Division I men's programs in the state played in the inaugural Big 4 Classic at Wells Fargo Arena the day before Iowa and Drake played at the Knapp Center. Bluder understands the reasoning to go toward that format on the men's side, but for now, she hopes the mythical state championship series stays in place for the women. The state of Iowa has a rich tradition in women's basketball at all levels. From the high school sixon-six era and sold-out state tournament crowds, to strong histories at all Division I schools, Bluder knows that the state has a focus on the sport. "I'm for the mythical state championship the way it is right now," Bluder said. "I think it's good for women's basketball in our state. I think we have four quality basketball programs in the state. We need to be playing each other." 63

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