The decision to make a change didn’t sit well with her parents.
Natural blond Lydia Bauer went brunette.
It was the summer of 2010, and the former Lake Zurich basketball star was going into her sophomore year at Wisconsin-Green Bay. She and her roommate were sitting around in Titletown, bored.
“There’s not much to do in Green Bay,” Bauer said with a laugh.
Her enthusiasm for the dye job eventually died. A year and a half later, the brown is fading. Bauer is growing back her long blond hair.
“My parents are happy,” she said. “They didn’t like the brunette.”
On the basketball court, Bauer looks fabulous. Her team is a knockout.
At 17-0, including 7-0 in the Horizon League, Wisconsin-Green Bay is one of only two undefeated women’s basketball teams in Division I (Baylor is the other). The Phoenix, ranked 12th in the AP Top 25 and ninth in the ESPN/USA Today rankings, is off to the best start in the program’s 38-year history.
On Wednesday, the Phoenix stopped in Lake Zurich at New Life Evangelical Lutheran Church, where Andy and Rachel Bauer hosted their oldest daughter and her UW-Green Bay teammates for a quick lunch. Preschoolers decorated the church’s entrance. About an hour later, the team hopped back on its bus en route to Indianapolis, where tonight the Phoenix faces Butler (7-11, 3-4) at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
“It’s been a blast,” Bauer, whose dad is a pastor at the church, said of her team’s season. “I think a lot of people were skeptical. We had two really, really good (seniors) last year, and I think some people were worried about what the team would be like this season, but I know that every year our girls are ready to go. This year has been no different.”
This season has been different for Bauer, who’s fit in nicely on a team that’s regarded for its ability to shoot the ball and defend tenaciously with a 2-1-2 “buzz” (trapping) defense in the half-court.
A 6-foot junior forward, Bauer is starting for the first time and has been one of the better players for the Phoenix, which last season went 34-2 and made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
In 17 games (all starts), Bauer is averaging 12.4 points and 3.5 rebounds, while shooting 41 percent (31 of 76) from three-point territory and 87 percent (27 of 31) from the stripe.
It was during spring meetings last year when Phoenix head coach Matt Bollant told Bauer that if the season started the next day she probably would be starting.
The blond wasn’t going to be dumb about it.
“I wanted to make sure that during the summer I did everything possible to make sure that I would get that (starting) spot,” Bauer said. “I did a lot of shooting after work.”
Bauer found something to do in Green Bay during summer other than dye her hair. She worked at a golf course and then afterward headed to the women’s basketball team’s facility, where she shot hoops in the auxiliary gym, alone.
She even went on runs 2-3 times a week.
“She’s always been a really hard worker, but you could see the extra time she was putting in the gym last spring and summer, just putting up lots of shots,” Bollant said. “I came in several nights, just getting work done, and she’d be in shooting it, doing extra work.”
It’s paid off for Bauer more than just on the offensive end.
“It’s been neat to see how much better she’s gotten, defensively,” Bollant said. “When she first came in (as a freshman), that’s what kept her from getting more minutes. She could score and shoot right away.”
Bauer was born in Lacrosse, Wis., and attends a college that has Green Bay Packer fans around every corner, but she’s a Chicago kind of gal — a Chicago Bears fan.
Which explains her indifference when last spring the Super Bowl champs brought the Lombardi Trophy to the Horizon League tournament at UW-Green Bay. While her teammates took pictures touching the trophy on their court, Bauer stood in a corner, nowhere near it.
“Luckily I wasn’t in that picture,” Bauer said, smiling, “because I know people down here would have given me a hard time.”
The truth is, icy Green Bay has warmed her heart.
“It’s funny, because I remember when Green Bay first called me (in high school) and I was like, ‘I’m never going there. That’s up in Wisconsin — Packer fans. I wouldn’t be able to deal with them,’ ” Bauer said, laughing. “But it’s been a great experience the last three years. I’ve been fortunate enough to pick a school that I love.”
Mom and dad are happy about her decision, too.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.