Freshman steps up volleyball game


Emma Krieger Kittle knows all about expectations.

The Iowa City native could have been a college basketball player. She could have followed the rest of her family — spanning four generations — in pursuing the sport.

But she had her own expectations for the future and where she wanted to go.

She chose to stay close to home. Recruited as a walk-on for the Iowa volleyball team, she now finds herself trying to fulfill another expectation: helping to re-shape the volleyball program at a Big Ten school.

Giving up basketball wasn’t an easy choice for Krieger Kittle, but the opportunity presented to her was just too good to pass up.

“The schools I was looking at for basketball were really far away, like in New York or Pennsylvania, and I didn’t want to go that far away,” she said. “It was just such a good offer, playing here in my hometown for the Hawkeyes. I love playing volleyball.

“It was hard giving up basketball, but coach [Sharon] Dingman made it so much easier. The whole staff was just really supportive.”

Growing up near the Iowa campus, both of Krieger Kittle’s parents were college athletes. Father Bruce was a football player for the Hawkeyes from 1977-79 and 1981, and mother Jan played basketball at Drake.

Being a competitor was in her blood.

As a multisport athlete lettering in volleyball, basketball, and soccer at West High, her athletic prowess, competitive nature, and drive were often on display.

Those traits were evident to Dingman, who saw how valuable an asset Krieger Kittle could be to the Hawkeye volleyball program.

“She works very hard, and I think there’s a genetic component there that not a lot of people have. She’s basically blessed with good genetics,” Dingman said. “But we all have different gifts, and Emma’s gift is clearly her competitiveness, her athleticism, and growing up in the house in which she grew up. But at the same time, it’s what you do with those gifts, and Emma is making the most of hers for sure with her work ethic.”

The outside hitter made her debút against Marquette in the Loyola Invitational on Aug. 29. She recorded six kills in the four-set victory. Her ability to quickly pick up on the fast-paced action and make necessary adjustments impressed her teammates.

“She’s extremely athletic, played a lot of sports in high school, and she’s just learning a lot every single day,” senior setter Christina Meister said. “You can see it. As the games get tougher and people get more intense, you can see her react to that because she is so athletic, and she’s able to learn on the fly.”

Playing in her second tournament, the Green Bay Classic on Sept. 4-5, Krieger Kittle had a more pivotal role and was again able to step up to the challenge presented. So far this season, she’s accumulated five digs and 23 kills with 10 errors in 66 attempts for a .197 hitting percentage while helping the Hawkeyes to a 6-0 record for the first time in 21 years.

“We put her in this weekend in a pretty critical position, and she did a great job handling the pressure, so that exceeded our expectations, too,” Dingman said. “Clearly, she’s an athlete who has grown up wanting to be in those positions, wanting to be that player that’s in those pressure situations. So we’re really pleased with where she is.”

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