Volleyball serves up tough slate of games


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa’s Gabrielle Orr serves during the volleyball Black & Gold scrimmage in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The volleyball team will start the season out in Long Beach, California, to face possibly their toughest competition in Stanford this weekend.

By Anna Kayser

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The Iowa volleyball team will open up on the road, where it will face some of its toughest competition of the season.

Today and Saturday, the Hawkeyes will playing in the Long Beach State University Invitational.

“Opening weekend is always unique,” head coach Bond Shymansky said. “Things never go perfect. Every team is bad in a lot of ways, I’m sure we’ll be bad in a lot of ways that we’ll look back on and say, ‘Gosh, we have to work on that,’ but that’s what happens early in the season, so that’s where our comfort with not being perfect needs to be there. We strive for that, and we want everything to roll smoothly, but in reality, those things are going to happen.”

Iowa will begin with Wright State at noon today.

However, the big game this weekend for the Hawkeyes, in the perspective of the Big Ten, will occur when they take on Stanford at noon on Saturday.

The Cardinal come into the season as the reigning NCAA national champion. The American Volleyball Coaches Association and the Pac-12‘s preseason polls rank the team No. 2 in the nation.

“Going to California actually does a couple things,” Shymansky said. “It gives us a chance to see different styles of teams, we get to play our reigning national champion of Stanford on the second day of our season, that’s great.”

Stanford also has 11 returning players, including three-time All-American Merete Lutz, coaches’ National Freshman of the Year Kathryn Plummer, as well as three honorable-mention All-Americans.

“I think we’ll do pretty well,” senior middle blocker Kelsey O’Neill said. “My first game is against Stanford, so I know I’m stoked just to play my hardest and to succeed the whole weekend.”

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The focus for the Stanford game is all about building up for the Big Ten and what is to come.

Stanford is similar to some Big Ten teams in that it is one of the tough, top-caliber competitors in the league.

“Playing these tough kinds of teams is going to kind of give us a taste of what the Big Ten is going to be like, and so it’s a good preparation to start for the season,” sophomore defensive specialist Ashley Smith said. “I feel like once we get into the Big Ten and everything, we’re going to come off this tournament with a kind of new high, and so I think it’ll give us a good start for the Big Ten continuing on through the season.”

The Hawkeyes’ last game of the weekend comes on Saturday at 9 p.m. against the home team, Long Beach State.

Long Beach was ranked third in the Big West preseason poll, coming off a 21-10 2016 season.

It returns two first-team All-Big West middle blockers in Ashley Murray and YiZhi Xue.

“Long Beach has won some national titles in the past; they’re really strong,” Shymansky said. “They play in an arena they call the pyramid, which they claim has magical home-court powers in, so it’s always fun to play out there.”

This weekend is all about just getting back on the court in a real game to get a feel for what the preseason’s hard work is heading toward.

“[I’m excited] to just see how our team chemistry works translating from all the hard-working practices we’ve had and what it’s going to be like during game play,” O’Neill said. “Obviously, we had a scrimmage, and that’s a really competitive feel, but it’ll be different once we get into a real game setting. I just hope it translates really well.”

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