Hawkeye volleyball hits the road to start Big Ten season

Volleyball travels to Northwestern and Illinois in important slate to start the season.

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Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa outside hitter Griere Hughes goes for a kill during a volleyball match between Iowa and Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, September 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes fell to the visiting Cyclones, 3-2.

Ben Payla, Sports Reporter

 

The Hawkeye volleyball team has a big weekend ahead of itself, opening up its Big Ten season on the road against Northwestern and No. 20 Illinois in back-to-back days. 

With a deep conference again this season, the team knows the importance of these two winnable games this weekend. 

“[We] definitely want to get better every week, so we really want to get one of these big victories for us and start going from there,” junior Brie Or said. 

This weekend marks a chance to get a big victory, with the Hawkeyes starting the weekend in Chicago against Northwestern (9-3).

“We know that they’re a pretty strong team, they’re a young team, but they did not have a lot of people that graduated so we really know that they’re going to come out strong, and they’re going to be a team that’s worked together for a while now,” junior Halle Johnston said.

Northwestern has had a strong start to the season, including victories against Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, and DePaul. Although they have yet to beat a ranked team, several victories over Power 5 programs will have the Wildcats confident heading into the weekend. 

This past weekend, the Wildcats took the Chicago Cup after beating DePaul and UIC in three sets each. 

One area of concern for the Hawkeyes may be Northwestern’s blocks per set, which is an average of 2.7 blocks per set versus Iowa’s 1.9. If Iowa keeps its attack mentality, then they will need to be more precise to counter this.

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“We’re working on the short game of it and how we can execute and eliminate some of the errors at the end of sets,” said newly named head coach Vicki Brown.

This will be another key area for Iowa in Friday’s game, as Northwestern has averaged 212 attack errors on the season , considerably more to Iowa’s 182 attack errors. 

Shifting focus to Saturday’s game against Illinois (5-4), the Hawkeyes will have their work cut out for them in order to win. Although the Fighting Illini boast an unimpressive record, Illinois has already gathered some impressive wins, including a home and away series against Tennessee and No. 10 Marquette. 

Iowa will have to watch for Jaqueline Quade on the Fighting Illini, who averages a team best 4.64 kills per set. With Iowa’s top attacker Megan Buzzerio out indefinitely, the rest of the team will have to step up to counter the threat from the other side of the net. 

Both teams’ setters will be very crucial to the match, as well, since Orr and Dianna Brown both have a 10.33 assists per set rate. If the match is tight, then the balance of the game may depend on the performance of the setters as both are crucial to each team’s success. 

The Hawks sit 40th in the RPI currently, and wins this weekend could bring the Hawkeyes closer to their goal of making the NCAA Tournament this year.

“It’s about knowing that that’s our goal but knowing that there’s so much season in between getting there, and you have to take it game by game,” Brown said. 

The Hawkeyes start Friday in Chicago against the Wildcats at 7 p.m. before traveling to Urbana to face the Fighting Illini at the same time Saturday night.

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