The Daily Iowan

Nerves overtake Iowa in fifth set


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The Iowa women’s volleyball team had not gone to five sets in any match under first-year head coach Bond Shymansky — until Wednesday night.

The lights in Carver-Hawkeye Arena were dimmed heading into the fifth set. The scene — as with most winner-take-all sets — was getting intense.

“I thought the energy was great coming off the fourth-set win, and our team was super fired up,” Shymansky said.

In a back-and-forth match against the No. 11 team in the country, Iowa lost that fifth set, 15-11.

Before Wednesday, the Hawkeyes had not yet won a set in conference play, compiling an 0-6 record.

Energy is what the Hawkeyes needed going into the fifth set. They had it and led 8-5, until the break.

After the teams switched sides, the Illini went on a 10-3 run to take the fifth set.

“We had a premium opportunity, up 8-5 at the turn, but we just got nervy,” Shymansky said. “That’s the first fifth set that we’ve been in all season, so it was the first moment where we really had to step up and play strong and play solid as we went through it.”

Only two juniors and two seniors saw time in the match Wednesday, leaving the challenge to the team’s underclassmen.

“The young and old players came together all the way through,” senior Alessandra Dietz said.

However, inexperience at the college level showed when it came down to the second half of the last set. 

The Hawkeyes had four errors — two attack errors and two service errors — that allowed room for Illinois to surge ahead for the win.

“You could just tell that we started thinking about the scoreboard and thinking about the end, and our group just got a little tight,” Shymansky said. “It’s such a fine balance, trying to keep that anxiety and keep that intensity without going overboard.”

The final point came down to the serving abilities of freshman setter Kaylee Smith.  Although she was nervous, she managed to stay focused and think only of two things.

“Get it in and play good defense,” she said. “I know that I still wanted to stay somewhat aggressive so I was thinking ‘serve that zone, serve that zone’ and play good defense.”

Losing the battle of nerves is something Shymansky hopes to build off of and find a solution to.

“The best way to learn how to compete and conquer the battle of nerves is to increase the level of nerves in practice as much as possible,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll come up with some Machiavellian device to do that, and the team will just know that that’s their time to respond so when we get into a match we’ll do the same.”

Through it all, the Hawkeyes are taking positives away from the close loss.

“I think it’s a lot of fun because it’s our team out there competing,” Dietz said. “We see that almost every day in practice, so it was so great to bring that out there and compete as a group and keep fighting.”