Volleyball returns to Iowa City seeking much-needed win

After dropping their sixth-straight game on Wednesday, the Hawkeyes look to rebound against Indiana.

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Volleyball returns to Iowa City seeking much-needed win

Iowa interim head coach Vicki Brown instructs her players during a volleyball match between Iowa and Washington at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Huskies, 3-1.

Iowa interim head coach Vicki Brown instructs her players during a volleyball match between Iowa and Washington at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Huskies, 3-1.

Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa interim head coach Vicki Brown instructs her players during a volleyball match between Iowa and Washington at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Huskies, 3-1.

Megan Nagorzanski

Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa interim head coach Vicki Brown instructs her players during a volleyball match between Iowa and Washington at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Huskies, 3-1.

Austin Hanson, Sports Reporter

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Managing an athletic program at the college level is never easy. Iowa volleyball head coach Vicki Brown has undoubtedly learned that fact this season as the team has suffered from many tough losses.

Before the season even began, Iowa fired then-head coach Bond Shymansky. Brown was then catapulted into an interim head coaching role. Since then, Brown has secured her job as Hawkeye head coach by signing a five-year contract extension earlier this season.

After the signing of Brown’s contract, things appeared to be trending in the right direction for the Hawkeyes. Iowa sat at 6-5 overall heading into the conference schedule. The Hawkeyes opened Big Ten Conference play with a 3-1 victory over Northwestern.

Since defeating the Wildcats, Iowa has struggled mightily. The Hawkeyes have dropped six-straight games, bringing their conference record to 1-6.

“I think it’s always about keeping things moving forward,” Brown said. “We can only learn from the past. The lessons that we learn, we have to take to the next week of practice and fine tune some things.”

The statistics tell one story about this Hawkeye team, but looking at the group shows another thing. Iowa has a talented roster. After Bond Shymansky departed, Vicki Brown was able to retain all the players Shymansky recruited.

The class of freshmen currently on Brown’s team came to Iowa City as the 24th-ranked recruiting class in the nation. Freshmen Edina Schmidt, Blythe Rients, Kyndra Hansen, and Joslyn Boyer have all seen expanded roles as Iowa’s season has progressed.

The freshmen on this roster have gotten better with every game.

“I’ve always been ready to contribute to this team,” Hansen said. “I’ve loved every opportunity I’ve gotten to play on the court and try my best to execute the game plan.”

In addition to the freshmen, several young sophomores — Courtney Buzzerio, Amiya Jones, Maddie Slagle, and Hannah Clayton — have all seen an increase in match action this season. Much like the freshmen, these sophomores continue to get better with each court appearance.

“[The young players] can do it,” junior Brie Orr said. “They are so ready. You can’t even tell that they’re the freshmen on the court. They’re really stepping up.”

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Leadership from players like Orr has kept the Hawkeyes in many sets. Rarely has there been a night that Iowa has been blown out in any of their sets. Even against the best teams from the best conference in volleyball, the Hawkeyes have had a chance to win every set they’ve played in. 

From this point forward, winning will be determined by the ability of Iowa’s young players to finish sets and earn big points late. Being competitive in sets is one thing; winning them is another.

The Hawkeyes’ next chance to snap the losing skid they’re on will come Sunday against Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hoosiers have also struggled in Big Ten Conference play, posting a 1-6 record. 

Indiana will come to Iowa City riding a three-game losing streak of their own. One streak will end on Sunday — the only question is which one.

“Minnesota is better than their record for sure,” DiIanni said. “I think they have a very good coaching staff, and they’re young. I love their mentality, as well. They’ve been a little bit unlucky. I think they’ve lost five or six one-goal games. They do struggle to score a bit, but they defend really well.”

The Big Ten women’s soccer standings are far from set in stone. Currently, Iowa is 5-3 in the Big Ten, meaning they have 15 points, which is tied for third with Penn State. The top eight teams make the Big Ten Tournament. 

Though Iowa is in a good position, each team has three to five games to go in the conference, and a lot can and will be decided in that time.

“We haven’t guaranteed ourselves a bid into the Big Ten Tournament yet,” DiIanni said. “So, I don’t think anybody has. Nobody’s been eliminated, nobody’s been guaranteed a spot yet, so I think that will happen after Thursday or Friday. For us, we’re really trying to just take it one day at a time to win as many games as we can so if we can control our own fate.”

The Hawkeyes have three regular season games remaining, and two of them are this weekend. They want to keep playing for as long as they can.

“I feel like our team is at a point where we are all so determined, and we all have so much energy that we really want to keep going,” freshman defender Samantha Cary said. “So, we’re just going to keep riding that horse until we can’t.”

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