The Daily Iowan

Purdue, Indiana final challenges for Iowa volleyball

In the final away matches of the season for Hawkeye volleyball this weekend, the team will try to finish on a strong note.

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Purdue, Indiana final challenges for Iowa volleyball

Hawkeye outside hitter Meghan Buzzerio spikes the ball  against Nebraska in Carver-Hawkeye on Nov. 7. The Hawkeyes lost, 3-0.

Hawkeye outside hitter Meghan Buzzerio spikes the ball against Nebraska in Carver-Hawkeye on Nov. 7. The Hawkeyes lost, 3-0.

Megan Nagorzanski

Hawkeye outside hitter Meghan Buzzerio spikes the ball against Nebraska in Carver-Hawkeye on Nov. 7. The Hawkeyes lost, 3-0.

Megan Nagorzanski

Megan Nagorzanski

Hawkeye outside hitter Meghan Buzzerio spikes the ball against Nebraska in Carver-Hawkeye on Nov. 7. The Hawkeyes lost, 3-0.

Pete Mills, Sports Reporter

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Much is riding on the final two weeks of the regular season for Iowa volleyball. With the team’s final away trip coming this weekend with matches against No. 12 Purdue and Indiana, the Hawkeyes need to finish the season strong.

As is becoming an annual tradition for head coach Bond Shymansky’s squad, the team is on the cusp of gaining a bid to the NCAA Tournament. That makes the final matches of the season even more important.

RELATED: Iowa volleyball gets it done on the road

With the final four matches of the season coming this weekend and the following one, Iowa needs to gain a lot from full weeks of preparation.

“[We’re looking for] four wins,” senior Molly Kelly said. “These next two weeks we play Friday and Saturday, so using the whole week to prepare is huge for us, both mentally and physically.”

This is huge for the Hawkeyes. With personnel changes after the season-ending injury to outside hitter Cali Hoye, Iowa has struggled with consistency. Several players need to step up and help the squad regain much of its chemistry.

“We’re starting to get good rhythm again,” Shymansky said. “Losing Cali Hoye was a tough blow for our team, but Meghan Buzzerio has stepped in and is starting to pick up the slack. Now we need to really ride our senior leadership here when it matters most.”

The team proved this resiliency in its 3-1 victory over Michigan State last weekend.

“We want to focus on bringing intensity at the beginning of the set,” senior Reghan Coyle said. “We did that really well against Michigan State, but we kind of lost it at the end. We only have four games left. [We are focusing on] putting it all out there and finishing strong.”

This weekend will be the first meeting of the season between Indiana and Iowa, and it seems poised to be an evenly matched affair.

The Hoosiers are out for blood, having suffered three-straight losses to No. 12 Purdue, No. 3 Minnesota, and No. 7 Wisconsin.

However, Indiana has proven to be fairly strong this season.

An upset-win of top-ranked Michigan earlier this season is among the highlights for the Hoosiers.

Statistically, Indiana has had some success. The Hoosiers have blocked pretty well this year, fourth in the Big Ten in blocks per set. Iowa has struggled with teams that block well this season, so this could prove to be a challenge for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa does have experience against Purdue this year. If this weekend’s match is anything like the teams’ first meeting, it will be an exciting bout.

The first match was a marathon ending after five sets with the Boilermakers snatching the victory. The Hawkeyes gave the Boilermakers everything they had but fell flat in the fifth set despite strong showings from Hoye and Taylor Louis.

Purdue’s Grace Cleveland led her squad with 19 kills and 5 blocks. Sherridan Atkinson also gave Iowa a hard time. She has continued the season in a similar light, putting up an average of 4.15 kills per set, fourth in the conference.

The Boilermakers have a record that puts them near the top of the Big Ten, but they have struggled lately in quick losses to No. 3 Minnesota and No. 7 Wisconsin.

Hawkeye victories this weekend would give them confidence heading into the last week of the season and could give them the edge they seek in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth.

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