Grit, focusing on future propel Hawkeyes into fall season

Following the messiness of the offseason, Iowa is pushing forward into the season and not looking back.

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Grit, focusing on future propel Hawkeyes into fall season

Brie Orr serves the ball during Iowa's match against Eastern Illinois on Sunday, September 9, 2018 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes won the match 3-0.(Megan Nagorzanski/ The Daily Iowan)

Brie Orr serves the ball during Iowa's match against Eastern Illinois on Sunday, September 9, 2018 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes won the match 3-0.(Megan Nagorzanski/ The Daily Iowan)

Megan Nagorzanski

Brie Orr serves the ball during Iowa's match against Eastern Illinois on Sunday, September 9, 2018 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes won the match 3-0.(Megan Nagorzanski/ The Daily Iowan)

Megan Nagorzanski

Megan Nagorzanski

Brie Orr serves the ball during Iowa's match against Eastern Illinois on Sunday, September 9, 2018 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes won the match 3-0.(Megan Nagorzanski/ The Daily Iowan)

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

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Eight incoming freshmen, a new head coach, and a season full of expectations on the heels of an NCAA-sized scandal. The Iowa volleyball program pushes ahead. On May 30, Iowa announced that it had placed then-head coach Bond Shymansky on paid administrative leave following financial accusations by a former player, an NCAA violation. On June 19, he was fired, and Vicki Brown was officially named Iowa’s head coach after having been the interim coach for the previous 21 days.

A whirlwind offseason gave Brown a choice: sink or swim. With the help of her captains and her coaching staff, she’s leading the team through the water.

“I believe the benefit with our captains is that they always projected forward movement,” Brown said at media day on Aug. 23. “When we came in as a staff, and me in my new role as head coach, it’s always been about what we’re doing next.”

Captains Brie Orr, Meghan Buzzerio and Emily Bushman have been instrumental in leading the charge.

Orr, specifically in her playmaking role as the starting setter, has bridged the gap between the incoming freshmen and created a true team mentality through the first two weeks of practice.

RELATED: Shymansky releases statement on NCAA violation

After the Iowa’s offseason and the recruiting problems that could have caused, the team’s meshing this early is a huge accomplishment.

“We’ve all come together in just that we know what our goal is as a team,” Orr said. “We want to make the tournament. Just learning that we can come together after everything that’s happened is awesome.”

Iowa’s incoming freshmen class ranks 24th in the nation, and thanks to Brown’s previous role as recruiting coordinator, the team was able to retain its new players for this season as well as recruits for the coming years.

Aside from navigating the coaching change, by working as a team, the Hawkeyes have gained confidence individually knowing they could rely on each other. All 17 of Iowa’s roster spots held solid through the early months of summer, a testament to the trust in both the team’s ability and the new coaching staff.

“One of the biggest things was to just know that our team didn’t change,” Buzzerio said. “That was huge to just be able to focus on us as a group and to know that we still had people from our program from before.”

Now, in the team’s ever-present mentality of grittiness and moving forward, it’s time to get to work.

Iowa’s season will begin on Friday in the James Madison Tournament, but the Hawkeyes are aiming toward the end.

It’s been 25 years since they have made an NCAA Tournament appearance, but in Brown’s time as associate head coach, they’ve made long strides toward that goal. Now, the challenges might not be strong enough to hold Iowa back.

“The team itself, the incoming freshmen, the returners, they have a goal set,” Brown said. “They have a mindset going into this season, and we’ve all worked together to maintain that, and so it’s just been a great opportunity and a great working environment.”

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