V-ball’s black and gold scrimmage shows promise

The Iowa volleyball team showed off its preseason efforts in the annual Black and Gold scrimmage on Aug. 19.

Iowa%27s+Ashley+Smith+looks+up+to+a+scoreboard+during+the+volleyball+Black+%26amp%3B+Gold+scrimmage+in+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Saturday%2C+Aug.+19%2C+2017.+The+Hawkeyes+will+host+their+first+home+game+against+Nebraska-Omaha+at+noon+on+September+1+to+kick+off+the+four+game+Hawkeye+Classic.+%28Joseph+Cress%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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V-ball’s black and gold scrimmage shows promise

Iowa's Ashley Smith looks up to a scoreboard during the volleyball Black & Gold scrimmage in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. The Hawkeyes will host their first home game against Nebraska-Omaha at noon on September 1 to kick off the four game Hawkeye Classic. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa's Ashley Smith looks up to a scoreboard during the volleyball Black & Gold scrimmage in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. The Hawkeyes will host their first home game against Nebraska-Omaha at noon on September 1 to kick off the four game Hawkeye Classic. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa's Ashley Smith looks up to a scoreboard during the volleyball Black & Gold scrimmage in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. The Hawkeyes will host their first home game against Nebraska-Omaha at noon on September 1 to kick off the four game Hawkeye Classic. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa's Ashley Smith looks up to a scoreboard during the volleyball Black & Gold scrimmage in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. The Hawkeyes will host their first home game against Nebraska-Omaha at noon on September 1 to kick off the four game Hawkeye Classic. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

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The Iowa volleyball team showed off its preseason efforts in the annual Black and Gold scrimmage on Aug. 19.

“I think it was a great showcase for us,” sophomore transfer and Iowa City native Ashley Smith said. “We have a lot of things we have to improve on, but when we come together as a team and start playing, there’s nothing to compare it to.”

If there’s one thing that the team needs to work on, it’s communication.

“The communication is iffy,” Smith said. “A lot of times when we get into those long rallies, we get tired and we kind of bring it down, so that’s something that as a team we all need to work on, so we keep the gym loud and we keep it going.”

That also comes with familiarity.

There are seven newcomers on the team in addition to a plethora of returners. With everyone working to become a starter, the lineup could be a mixture of new and old.

This will require more effective communication as the season starts so the team moves seamlessly during games.

“We’re a bunch of new people on the court, so it’s just kind of getting used to playing together and stuff, but I think it’s all going to come together soon,” senior defensive specialist Annika Olsen said. “We’re excited.”

The communication is aided by those big voices on the court that others can rely on.

Leaders play an important role in often being the loudest and most talkative.

“Biggest [leader], I would definitely say Annika Olsen,” Smith said. “I lean on her like no other. And I would have to say Jess Janota. Even though they are seniors — you know, you don’t have to be a senior to be a leader — they are our rocks. I can always rely on them to stay steady throughout the whole play and through the whole game.”

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The Hawkeyes’ defense has the ability to be strong, but it just isn’t there yet. It’s a matter of being aggressive and confident, rather than lacking defensive techniques.

“I think just our confidence and our serve-receive [need work], just knowing what balls are ours,” Olsen said.

Head coach Bond Shymansky agreed that the back-row defense needs some work, but that also comes with a set lineup.

“I think like every team, we need serving and passing work, but really it’s going to be about systems,” Shymansky said. “We’ll establish who our starting lineup is, and then this whole week, we’ll really work that starting lineup, look at serve-receive patterns, look at defensive-block schemes, and just really get that group prepared.”

Going into the season, offense will be a key strength for the team.

Last year, the Hawkeyes averaged more kills per set than their opponents and ended the season with 1,455 kills in 3,548 attempts.

This year, they added junior transfer Taylor Louis to bolster their offensive game. Louis comes from Marquette, where she was the team leader in both kills and digs.

“I think right now, our hitters are doing a really great job just putting the ball away when they get the right sets,” Olsen said. “They’re doing a really good job with the ability to mix up our offense.”

The offense isn’t just coming from the net, either.

Sophomore outside and right side hitter Meghan Buzzerio stood out during the scrimmage with a number of kills coming from the back row.

“I think that’s part of the key; they need us in the back when we have two hitters in the front,” Buzzerio said. “I think it’s something that in our position we need to be able to take control of.”

While there is still a lot to work on, the Hawkeyes’excitement could be their greatest asset.

The team is relentlessly competitive; the players jab at each other and have fun in a productive way that is meant to make each other better.

“I think our biggest strength is our consistency and our excitement about the season,” Buzzerio said. “I mean we’re definitely going all out, working hard every single day, and I think that shows on the court, when we’re going, and hitting balls, and just working well together.”

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