CEDAR FALLS — Cynthia Wolf has embraced opportunities to measure herself against the best competition she can find.
Complementing a 6-foot-3 frame with developed athleticism, the Cedar Falls native spent summers her first two years of high school traveling the country as part of elite Barnstormers basketball and Six Pack volleyball club programs.
Basketball eventually became Wolf’s sport of choice.
“Even though I enjoyed the volleyball friendships, I was kind of like, ‘I don’t want to be here right now. I just want to go play basketball,’” Wolf related. “Whenever I was at a basketball tournament, I was like, ‘This is awesome. I don’t want to play in my volleyball tournament.’ That’s finally when I decided I just need to stick to one.”
Wolf joined her club basketball and current high school teammates Kiana Barney and Kamryn Finley last fall when all three inked their names to national letters of intent with the University of Northern Iowa. While she’s recently narrowed her club focus, Wolf has continued to enjoy competing for her high school in multiple sports.
The senior earned Class 5A all-tournament volleyball team honors after Cedar Falls elevated from 2016 state finalist to capture the program’s first championship last November.
When Class 5A’s No. 2-ranked Tigers begin basketball postseason play Saturday, Wolf will be looking to complete a similar journey. She’s one of three senior starters attempting to rise from state runner-up into champions.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunities with my teammates and how awesome they have been,” Wolf said. “We’re so close and hard-working and grow together.
“Being able to get so far in state tournaments has really helped improve our games. We’re under stressful situations and still have to play with consistency and play hard. ... Each day it’s about those little things and working hard and getting stronger.”
Cedar Falls coach Gregg Groen says Wolf exudes a quiet confidence. Younger teammates admire her composure and court savvy.
Wolf spent her freshman year playing on the sophomore team before averaging more than 10 points and seven rebounds on varsity teams that have accumulated a combined record of 65-7 these past three seasons.
The Tigers’ center has added an accurate 3-point shot to her offensive arsenal, draining 18 of 36 (50 percent) of her attempts from distance. She’s shooting 60 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free throw line.
On defense, Wolf ranks third among Class 5A’s leading shot-blockers with 53 rejections. Her help-side instincts have altered countless other shots for a team that ranks second in 5A scoring defense by allowing just 35.3 points a game.
Wolf’s passing ability out of the post has also helped Cedar Falls achieve a fluid offense that features five starters averaging more than 10 points a game.
“She does a great job with not only scoring points, but finding other ways to be a part of the offense,” Groen said. “We’re feeding the post and she’s looking for avenues to get her teammates the ball to get quality shots whether it’s a back-door cut or kicking it out to the perimeter for a 3-point shot.”
The second youngest of four children, Wolf credits family support as her foundation for athletic success. Her mom, Joyce, played high school basketball and dad, Zach, still holds the Cedar Falls boys’ basketball team’s single-game scoring record of 42 points.
Family trips to the rec center were common for Cynthia, who grew up developing basketball skills alongside older brothers, Bryce, 24, and Andrew, 22.
“I went to my older brothers’ practices a lot when I was younger and saw the hard work they put in,” Wolf said. “As I got older and my parents saw me choosing basketball and volleyball, my dad took me to the rec almost every day and I put up shots. That’s what really helped me get the consistency.”
The senior feels blessed to continue working alongside Barney and Finley when they make the transition from prep basketball to competing for their hometown college.
“It’s going to be a really awesome experience going in with people that I know,” Wolf said. “I can be really shy and timid if I’m by myself, but with them I’ll be able to be more outgoing and comfortable. It’ll just help me build my character.”
The sky’s the limit for this determined center.
“I don’t think Cynthia has even come close to hitting her ceiling,” Groen said. “She’s going to be one who just continually gets better and better every year.”