Growing up in Iowa, I'd always been exposed to the in-state rivalry between Iowa State and Iowa. Cheering and watching as a fan, however, didn't come close to preparing me for the day that I would set foot on the court.
With it being our first Top 25 matchup of the season, the preparations had already begun a week earlier, and with that came nerves, excitement and anxiety -- a range of emotions that I never imagined.
With palms sweaty, legs shaking and nerves rising, it was about time to hit the floor, but first, head coach Bill Fennelly had a pregame talk with us. Walking in with a stack of emails in one hand -- from season-ticket holders sharing their joy and love of ISU basketball to previous players expressing the passion and incredible feeling of Hilton Magic -- he wasted no time cutting to the point: It all came down to going into the next 40 minutes with "no excuses and no regrets."
Nothing can describe the rush I felt when running out in front of 10,000-plus fans with the band roaring. We were prepared and it was time to execute. The game brought a whole new level of excitement; with Brynn [Williamson] hitting 3’s, Nikki [Moody] dropping dimes and Hallie [Christofferson] outhustling everyone, the team and Hilton itself were rocking.
As Hilton emptied after the game that night, I found a quick, quiet moment to myself. At last, I finally felt nothing but one simple emotion: joy. Our team was not only walking away with a victory over the Hawkeyes, but keeping our undefeated record as well.