Shymansky spikes V-ball roster


The Daily Iowan

Iowa head coach Bond Shymansky gives his team a talk during a time out at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Iowa was defeated by Nebraska 0-3.(The Daily Iowan/John Theulen)

Kyle Mann, [email protected]

Coach Bond Shymansky’s overhaul of the Iowa volleyball program continued during the off-season, and, while he spent his first year implementing a new culture, he enters his second season now having rebuilt essentially the entire roster.

New hirings are often allowed roughly a four-year window to accumulate “their players,” but Shymansky has arrived at that point at a torrid pace. The Hawkeyes graduated four seniors last year and agreed to part ways with four other players. In their place, Shymansky has brought in four freshmen and four Division-I transfers.

He also brought in a large recruiting class in 2014, so after only one season and one off-season, he has personally recruited 11 of the 15 players on the team.

The real effect — especially in the early going — will come from the transfers.

Ashley Mariani, a junior from Tennessee, Taylr McNeil (sophomore, South Carolina), Loxley Keala (junior, Missouri), and Annika Olsen (sophomore, Georgia Tech) were brought in for specific purposes, and by all accounts, they can be counted on for significant contributions.

First, the Hawkeyes trumpeted for much of last season that they had room to improve their serve-receive and first contact. Shymansky made tweaks in his back row, and just as the team felt a slight improvement in that area, it went on a run.

Now, the coach hopes that Olsen will provide stability in the back and help alleviate the past struggles getting the ball into the system. As a freshman with the Yellow Jackets, she played in 113 of 118 sets and was third with 270 digs (2.39 per set).

“I really like what Annika Olsen is doing as our libero right now,” Shymansky said.

Olsen can likely be penciled in as a starter, particularly with junior Alyssa Klostermann set to miss at least the start of the season with a thumb injury, and she won’t be the only new face on the floor.

“Loxley Keala is doing a great job as our starting setter right now,” Shymansky said. “She will clearly be the starter.”

Similar to Olsen, Keala arrives as not just a Division-I transfer but a battle-tested one. She appeared in every match (69) and every set (245) in her two seasons at Missouri and led her team with 5.61 assists per set. She was also third with 2.06 digs per set.

A versatile and intelligent setter, Keala has a firm grasp on her role in Iowa’s system.

“Setting a 5-1 is important not only because you keep the tempo the same with just one setter, but it splits the offense in the sense that I’m able to attack as well,” Keala said. “I’m able to split the blockers themselves and get one-on-one, if not any blockers. Other teams don’t know what to expect from us, and we’ll catch them on their heels.”

Mariani, a versatile player in her own respect, is competing for a starting spot likely as a middle blocker. She started in 61 of her 64 matches as a Lady Vol, and she has ability as both a blocker and a hitter.

The fourth transfer, McNeil, has the least obvious role to fill, as Lauren Brobst, Jess Janota, and Taylin Alm make up a promising young corps of hitters. McNeil, however, will be hard to keep off the court. She stands 6-2 and led the Gamecocks in kills as a freshman with 3.06 per set, which would also have led the Hawkeyes.
Together, the transfers represent a massive influx of talent. And more importantly, Shymansky-selected talent.

“I think we’re definitely going to surprise some people this year,” Mariani said.

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