‘True Mental Toughness’ for Hawkeye volleyball

Iowa volleyball strives toward its goal of ‘True Mental Toughness’ while gearing up to take on the best conference in the nation.

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‘True Mental Toughness’ for Hawkeye volleyball

Iowa Volleyball head coach Bond Shymansky speaks to the media at Iowa Volleyball Media Day at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, August 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes kick off their 2018 season on August 25 against Southern Methodist University at the LUV Invitational in Nashville, Tennessee, and open at home on September 9 against Eastern Illinois. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa Volleyball head coach Bond Shymansky speaks to the media at Iowa Volleyball Media Day at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, August 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes kick off their 2018 season on August 25 against Southern Methodist University at the LUV Invitational in Nashville, Tennessee, and open at home on September 9 against Eastern Illinois. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lily Smith

Iowa Volleyball head coach Bond Shymansky speaks to the media at Iowa Volleyball Media Day at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, August 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes kick off their 2018 season on August 25 against Southern Methodist University at the LUV Invitational in Nashville, Tennessee, and open at home on September 9 against Eastern Illinois. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa Volleyball head coach Bond Shymansky speaks to the media at Iowa Volleyball Media Day at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, August 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes kick off their 2018 season on August 25 against Southern Methodist University at the LUV Invitational in Nashville, Tennessee, and open at home on September 9 against Eastern Illinois. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lauren Jimmerson, Sports Reporter

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Iowa volleyball head coach Bond Shymansky and the 2018 squad are focused on the same mission as they amp up for the fall season. The team will begin the season striving for “True Mental Toughness” and building excitement throughout Hawkeye Nation.

“There are two things that I know at the beginning of every season,” Shymansky said. “One is that we’re going to be better than the year before, and two is that we have a lot of different parts.”

After parting with three vital seniors in 2017, the Hawkeyes welcome seven newcomers to the court and examine their current lineup to fill leadership roles. During preseason practice, coaches have eyed seniors Taylor Louis and Reghan Coyle to lead the team both vocally and with their athletic ability.

Shymansky believes the two seniors have paid their dues, earning the respect of the entire staff. The contributions Louis and Coyle make on the court are immeasurable, and their intangibles are the perfect fit for Iowa.

“Louis came back with a vengeance,” Shymansky said. “In practice earlier this week, I said, ‘Man, you can be really wicked when you want to be, and it’s time to be that way every single day.’ She went out for the next five minutes of practice, and it was just plain nasty.”

As Louis tries to replace lost senior leadership, Coyle will attempt to embrace her role as a team captain and a strong hitter.

“I’m just going to be more of an option this year,” she said. “I’ll produce kills for the team when they need it most.”

Another senior, Molly Kelly, will try to make large contributions as the starting libero. After playing behind Annika Olsen and working into the spot for three years, Kelly will face some competition from the other Hawkeyes.

Sophomore Halle Johnston and freshman Maddie Slagle were preseason surprises for the coaches and proved they might deserve a spot in the back row. Slagle worked to make her early mark by taking opportunities and not waiting for a spot on the team.

“She’s really steady and super athletic, moves really well and reads well,” Shymansky said.

The last returning piece to the puzzle is sophomore setter Brie Orr, a returning starter from 2017. Shymansky hopes her freshman experience relieved some the pressure on the court, because now she knows how to win. Seeing extra competition among incoming freshmen, Orr personifies energy, team leadership, and strong ball distribution on the court.

“Knowing what the competition is like and not going in blind has given me more confidence,” Orr said.

After focusing on growth in the offseason, the sophomore has put in hard work in and out of the gym. Her attitude when it comes to practice? “Do it right, and never let anything go to waste.”

The coaches have confidence in newcomer Courtney Buzzerio, who has some unique qualities. Shymansky thinks she will be an interesting contributor as a 6-5 setter and tremendous blocker. Buzzerio has proved to be strong offensively at the net and owns a strong serve.

With high hopes after preseason practices, the team may see some shuffling before reaching Big Ten play later this fall. Shymansky wants to place players where they can employ their unique qualities.

“Whether you’re on the ‘A’ side or the ‘B’ side every day in practice, the net is see-through,” Shymansky said. “We can see anywhere in the gym. There’s no hiding if you’re playing well or playing poorly.”

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