Volleyball’s win totals, morale, on the rise

The volleyball team has shown good chemistry both on and off the court that can help carry on the culture and continued trend of improvement from the past three years.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa’s Annika Olsen prepares to serve during the volleyball Black & Gold scrimmage in Carver-Hawkeye on Aug. 19. The Hawkeyes will host their first home game against Nebraska-Omaha at noon on Sept. 1 to kick off the four-game Hawkeye Classic.

The volleyball team wants to continue its success from last season, with one of the main keys being the athletes’ unique chemistry both on and off the court.

A year ago, the volleyball Hawkeyes finished the season 19-13, their first winning record in 16 years. It marked yet again another year of improvement since head coach Bond Shymansky took over in 2014.

The focus of last season was “true mental toughness,” a phrase making the rounds again.

“We love the culture that’s inside of our group because we have a culture that really cares about each other in a very deep and profound way that has trust and respect built into it,” Shymansky said during the program’s media day. “We continue to really work hard to demonstrate, to model, to laud and applaud that true mental toughness.”

Last fall, Iowa came up one win shy of a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Reaching the tournament is in the back of the Hawkeyes’ minds, but Shymansky wants the players to focus on what they can control, working hard and grinding through the entire season.

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“We don’t ever think of things in term of this or that, this or bust, do it or don’t — that will come at the end,” Shymansky said during the press conference. “So the NCAA Tournament will either happen at the end or it won’t, and we will still at that point have no control over it because it’s up to the selection committee.”

The goal instead is to keep the focus strong throughout the season and to compete for a Big Ten championship, which Shymansky thinks his team is good enough to do.

Taking things one day at a time is the key.

“We’re still about the process; you have to be, because it’s too easy to get caught up in some goal along the way and then falter and quit or give up,” Shymansky said during the press conference. “So that’s why true mental toughness is our process, and that’s why that’s our continued goal, because it’s unreachable.”

The way the athletes interact and push each other could be that key to push the team past the past years’ improvement.

The personality of the team has been described as nice, funny, goofy, and a collection of smart alecks. This translates into comfort on the court.

“In practice this year, it’s just been very competitive,” senior defensive specialist Annika Olsen said. “We’ve been going at it, a little bit of sass with each other, just trying to bring out the best in each other. We’re not afraid to call each other out, call each other up to perform better, and perform harder.”

The extra push from teammates helps the motivation come from directly on the court instead of from the bench.

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