Volleyball adds experience in three transfers

The volleyball team added three new transfer athletes to fill the holes in its roster and to tack onto its existing dominance.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa’s Taylor Louis high-fives teammates while going through introductions 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 volleyball has added depth and experience to its rotation in the form of three transfers.

Junior outside hitter Taylor Louis, senior middle blocker Kelsey O’Neill, and sophomore defensive specialist Ashley Smith join the team, hoping to help Iowa’s upward trend.

Since finishing last season 19-13 — its first winning record since 2000 — the program has striven for more, specifically in depth.

“When you get a transfer in, they bring experience, they bring values, they bring something unique that you just have to figure out how to use,” head coach Bond Shymansky said.

On offense, the Hawkeyes had more kills than their opponents (1,455 to 1,341).

This year, Louis will continue the team’s dominance. She played the past two years at Marquette, leading the team in kills and digs. She was on the All-East Coast Region Team, as well as the All-Big East first team. To add to her accomplishments, Louis was selected as an honorable mention All-American.

“I think with the pieces we have here now, we can build on each other,” Louis said.

She doesn’t just bring power to the offense. She injects confidence and characteristics that can translate into wins.

“[Louis] is incredible,” senior defensive specialist Annika Olsen said. “She hits the ball hard and just really knows what she’s doing on the outside.”

On the defensive side, the Hawkeyes last season missed a key part of their rotation at the middle of the net.

Senior Jess Janota was the lone middle blocker returning from last year’s team, leading Shymansky to O’Neill, who comes from playing two years at Pittsburgh (170 kills and 72 blocks in 2016).

“[O’Neill] is really great — really technically sound — and I think that she’s going to be awesome, adding just that depth from the middle position that we didn’t have,” Olsen said.

O’Neill didn’t visit Iowa City before transferring; she got a feel for the program and the town from what Shymansky told her.

“I knew there was going to be plenty to do; I knew the people were going to be pretty welcoming,” she said. “I’m really not used to such nice people because I’m from Chicago, everyone’s a little standoffish, so that was pretty cool.”

Coming to a new program as a transfer can sometimes be nerve-racking, but Louis and O’Neill had each other for familiar faces. The pair played on the same club team during their high-school years.

“[O’Neill] actually told me after I committed that she was going to be coming here,” Louis said. “That made me feel a little bit more comfortable.”

For Iowa City native Smith, the transition from Nebraska-Omaha was filled with familiar faces.

“I love being home,” she said. “I had classes the other day, and I’ve seen like 20 people I already know. I just constantly run into people that I graduated with, and it’s great to be by family again, so yeah, this is where I want to be.”

Smith was a star defensive specialist for City High, setting the school record for most digs in a set with 58.

Adding a group of transfers to the roster isn’t anything new for Shymansky and the culture he is trying to build.

Iowa is known for recruiting those already at the college level.

“Bond has built this program on transfers, so there have been a lot of us, and I’m sure there will be a lot more in the future,” Olsen said. “It’s just nice knowing that when you come in as a transfer that there are other transfers there who kind of work you through it, help you out, and let you know kind of how it goes and what you need to do to be successful.”

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