Women’s basketball Head Coach Jillian Flores Bennett has accepted a head coaching job at Iowa Western College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She will take over the program vacated by Lindsey Vande Hoeff, who announced her retirement on March 7.
Athletic Director Shane Hurley commented, “We are very saddened to see her departure. We set out to hire a head coach with drive, knowledge and integrity, and Coach Bennett gave the women and us on the team that and more. We will begin taking the necessary steps to reorganize and attract a diverse candidate pool to ensure the continuation of success for the women’s basketball program and all of its participants. I wish Coach Jillian well and thank her for her service.”
Bennett left Iowa Western in 2021 as assistant coach to become OLLU’s head coach during the 2021-2022 season. Bennett guided the Saints to a Red River Athletic Conference West Division Championship in her first year with an undefeated 14-0 conference record. The team captured the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament Championship and received an automatic bid to the 41st Annual National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Basketball National Championship opening round. There, the Saints lost to Wayland Baptist University to end their season with a record of 20-11.
Bennett was named the conference’s Coach of the Year. Under Bennett, Keviona Barber was selected to the NAIA All-America team, and she was named Player of the Year. In addition, Barber was named to the First-Team All-Conference along with Natalia Trevino. Honorable Mention selectees were Emiko Hemphill, Cormia Lewis and Makayla White. Alexandra Strawhorn was named to the Champions of Character team.
Bennett said, “I will be forever grateful for the opportunity Our Lady of the Lake gave me this year to be the women’s basketball head coach. OLLU is a very special place and allowed me to grow tremendously as a head coach.
“Athletic Director Shane Hurley has been a great leader, and I want to thank him for his belief in me. I want to acknowledge the leadership shown by the upperclassmen on the team for their grit and desire to win. I also want to thank our assistant coach, Tommy Turgeon, for his efforts this season in helping us succeed. This team is full of very special players and people. I am saddened to leave; however, I am looking forward to being closer to my family while also being able to continue coaching collegiately.
“I want to thank all of the administrators at OLLU, fellow coaches and faculty and staff for their support this season. It truly was an unforgettable season. Together this team and I battled adversity. We found a way to compete at a high level and win the conference championship while also going undefeated in the regular season. There are many memories and relationships I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
“I wore the Saints’ halo with a lot of pride, and I will continue to watch the success of the players and program from afar,”