Kathleen Doyle never quit.
There are countless examples of this during her four year career as a member of Lisa Bluder’s Iowa Hawkeyes, but let’s look at our most recent — and sadly, final — instance of seeing Doyle in the black and gold for a great example. Maybe the best possible example.
Doyle and the Hawkeyes entered this season’s Big Ten Tournament as the No. 3 seed, and as reigning Big Ten Tournament Champions. Doyle, as one of the senior leaders of the team and just days removed from being named Big Ten Player of the Year, had a lot to prove.
The game quickly turned into a blowout. A 25-5 lead after the first quarter was pretty much all it took for the No. 6 seed Ohio State Buckeyes to take control of the game. At times when it seemed like no one wearing an Iowa uniform could score, Doyle was doing her hardest to keep her team in the game. She was responsible for a good portion of the very few points the Hawkeyes were able to score, before hitting the ground beneath the basket hard and called for the trainers. It was clear even from TV that she was telling the trainers she had hurt her back in some capacity.
Doyle left the game, and some of us thought we’d seen the last of her for the night. Barely any time passed at all before she came back into the game, clearly hobbled, but not willing to let her team down. Iowa proceeded to tally a 6-0 run that gave the team new life.
But things didn’t improve in the second half, as Ohio State’s hot shooting continued. To make things worse, Doyle jumped for a rebound and landed awkwardly on the foot of an Ohio State defender behind her.
She hobbled off the court, but again, came back into the game, despite calls from me as I tweeted from the BHGP account, and plenty of reporters and people in the mentions of the account. It was admirable of her for wanting to continue to play, but the game was out of winnable reach and Lisa Bluder needed to sit her on the bench and save her star for the NCAA Tournament.
That didn’t happen, and Doyle finished as Iowa’s leading scorer with 16 points and emerged as a team leader in every sense of the word. Hopefully she would have enough time to heal up to play when it mattered most.
It really hit me hard earlier this week when, among cancellation after cancellation of literally everything, it settled in for me that college athletics is truly over. I ached for every athlete who has to seen their career end in such a difficult way. But I also came away with a newfound appreciation for Doyle’s performance in the Big Ten Tournament. Obviously she didn’t know what was about to happen to sporting events across the country (or maybe she did have a sense, who knows). She just went out and played hard for her teammates even when the game was clearly over.
It’s everything anyone would want in a teammate, and it’s everything that matters in a player for Lisa Bluder with ‘Hawkeyes’ written on the chest.
But this is just one small moment in what was an incredible season — and of course, career — for Doyle. Winning Big Ten Player of the Year (as voted on by the coaches and media, might I add) alone is a tremendous accomplishment. Doyle averaged 19.8 points and 6.3 assists — with that assist number leading the conference — on 47% shooting, and scored in double figures in every game of the season. Add that to the fact that she’s now the second Iowa player to win the award after Megan Gustafson took home the award for two consecutive years.
Doyle’s senior season capped off a tremendous Iowa career, in which she played a large role in her team’s Big Ten Tournament victory, a run to the Elite Eight, and a season behind the wheel as the team’s leader who ensured that losing the program’s greatest player of all time didn’t mean a lack of success for the team.
We’ll never know what could have been for the Iowa Women’s Basketball team in the NCAA Tournament, where they were projected as a No. 4 seed and No. 13 overall earlier this month. But we do know that Kathleen Doyle ended her career showing the kind of spirit and determination that helped her and her team find so much success over the last four years.
Thanks for the memories, Kathleen, and good luck in the future.