Lady Iron basketball looks to rebound under new head coach

After a prolonged offseason, the Lady Iron basketball team, led by head coach Mr. Dave Feeney, return to the court on Feb. 6 to begin a shortened season.

Feeney, no stranger to the Lady Iron program, served as an assistant under former head coach Mr. Marcus Mann from 2017-2019. After Mann stepped down at the end of last season, Feeney was named head coach — returning to a role he held from 1999-2007. 

More than winning, Feeney’s primary objective for the season is to “establish how we want to play,” the veteran coach said. Feeney’s vision is summed up by the team mottos: “Iron Sharpens Iron” (I.S.I) and “Tough and Together” (T.N.T). 

“If we play really hard and we play unselfishly, that’s a really fun team to coach, [and] that’s a fun team to be a part of,” Feeney said. 

The nature of the season, 11 games with no state tournament, Feeney said, makes it easier not to put too much weight on the final record. 

Although the team finished 14-16 last season (marking the first sub .500 finish in five years), there are plenty of reasons for optimism this year. 

While the Lady Iron struggled in non-conference games, they finished with a Big 12 record of 8-2. The abnormal season schedule currently includes just one non-conference game.

More significantly, Feeney said, is that the “core of our varsity” is returning from last season. 

That core includes juniors Karleigh Creasey and Ivy Juarez, and seniors Mallory Oloffson and Madison Feeney, players who all took on more significant roles last season after the loss of star guard Kylee Schneringer. The four returning all finished the season averaging at least 6 points per game, with Oloffson and Creasey earning All Big-12 second-team honors. 

Coach Feeney described the period after losing Schneringer as leaving the team “in flux.” The search for team and individual identity after Schneringer’s injury, Feeney believes, has the team better prepared going into this season. 

Feeney is optimistic that the returning contributors “can carry the load,” allowing less-experienced players to “grow in their role.” These role players include sophomores Lauren Hlava and Sophia Feeney, who both dressed varsity last year. 

While experience is not a concern, the abnormal offseason presents some challenges: “I’m a little worried about our conditioning just with how quickly the season has come to pass,” Feeney said.

He added that the team might have to make some adjustments to how they would typically play offensively to accommodate for lack of preparation time. 

A hot start is well within reason as the Lady Iron open up with three home games, all against teams they defeated last season. However, Feeney noted that NCHS’s first opponent, Moline, played without star guard Kadence Tatum in last season’s 44-34 Lady Iron victory. 

No matter what the scoreboard reads at the end of each game, Feeney will keep things in perspective for his team, “let’s remember to enjoy it because it was very close to not happening at all,” he said.