From roommates to opponents, superstars Caitlin Clark and Hailey Van Lith headline Elite 8 matchup

Published: Mar. 25, 2023 at 11:09 PM CDT
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SEATTLE, Washington (KCRG) - When they meet up on Sunday in Seattle, expect Caitlin Clark and Hailey Van Lith to put their friendship aside.

The two stars roomed together abroad when Team USA won the U19 World Cup in 2019. They have plenty of respect for one another.

“I really admire that passion, that competitive spirit that she plays with,” Clark said. “She plays with that emotion because she wants to win more than anything. It’s not because she’s cocky, because she not. It’s the confidence she has in herself.”

Van Lith earned honorable mention on the Associated Press All-America team. She’s averaged 19.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game over the regular and postseason. Clark was a unanimous selection to the First Team.

“Caitlin’s a great player. She has excellent court vision and she gets to her spots on the court when she needs to score,” Van Lith said. “I think our games are different, but they’re great in their own way.”

What makes this reunion come full circle is that Louisville head Jeff Walz will be going up against Lisa Bluder and company. Walz was Clark’s coach on Team USA, the two still have a friendly relationship.

“She makes that shot against Indiana to win, and I’m sure her phone was just blowing up, and I sent her a simple text that said ‘it hit the rim,’” Walz said. “Within 45 minutes she was like ‘why doesn’t that surprise me from you’ with a big smiley face!”

Walz knows the Cardinal defense needs to contain Clark.

“She passes the ball, you look at the number of assists she has, she’s shooting 48 or 49 percent overall from the field. 80 plus (percent) from the free throw line, her court vision is outstanding,” said Walz. “Her range is once she crosses half court. Nobody is going to undervalue what she does.”

The Hawkeyes know when they’re on defense, they need to limit Van Lith’s touches.

“She’s a lefty, she has really good mid range, can get to the basket and she’s got a great three point shot,” said Kate Martin. “She’s a three level scorer and she just works hard.”

Seeing each other grow into stars has been rewarding for Clark and Van Lith.

“I think we understood like we’re going to see each other in college at some point. With the schools we’re going to, the potential, and the type of runs we want to make, and the dreams that we have,” Clark said. “I think it’s a really fun and special dynamic.”

Iowa and Louisville tip off at 8 p.m. in the Elite 8 on ESPN.