Iowa volleyball aims to take step forward in 2020-21

An adverse offseason and a postponed fall season won’t clip the Hawkeyes’ determination to push forward.


Nichole Harris

Courtney Buzzerio and Hannah Clayton try to stop the Huskers from scoring during the Iowa and Nebraska volleyball game. The Huskers defeated the Hawkeyes in three sets on November 9, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

After a disappointing 2019 campaign yielded a 10-21 overall record, Iowa volleyball is ready to suit up for redemption this season – whenever that may be.

“Hopefully [athletics resume] this spring,” outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio said. “I think that’s what we’re hoping for. Maybe March? Obviously, that can change anytime. The hope is to have somewhat of a full season … If that doesn’t happen in the spring because everything’s not resolved and not safe enough, that’ll be sad to have a year and a half off. But my hope is to have as full of a season as we possibly can.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created difficulties for people around the globe, and Iowa volleyball has not been excluded from the bunch.

For Buzzerio, things were especially difficult in the early months of the pandemic at her family’s home in California.

“Physically, it was hard to stay in contact [with teammates],” Buzzerio said. “For me being the farthest besides [Edina Schmidt who was home in Germany], it was hard to see people. I know there [were] girls that lived three hours away [from each other] and they visited each other on weekends. That was cool for them, but for me it was a lot different. . . Honestly, it was hard. I luckily had my sister to work out with. A partner helped a lot to stay motivated.”

Her sister is former Iowa volleyball player Meghan Buzzerio.

The adversity caused by the pandemic didn’t stop plaguing Buzzerio or her teammates when they returned to Iowa City. After the Big Ten announced that all fall sports were postponed on Aug. 11, the Hawkeyes had to change their practice structure.

“We started our preseason normally with going double days and kind of hitting the ground running right away before the Big Ten canceled,” Buzzerio said. “That was three days into our preseason workouts. Then after that, we took it kind of back to our [normal] spring practices. So, very individualized shorter blocks of time in the gym, but every day. Now that school has started, we’ve gotten back into spring full-team practices. [The coaching staff] is still trying to ease us into it because we haven’t played six-on-six in a while. We don’t want to rush anything because we do have time, not really knowing what our timeline looks like.”

RELATED: Lineup preview: Iowa volleyball looking to rebound in 2020

This Iowa squad is no stranger to adversity. Last season, now-head coach Vicki Brown began as an interim head coach, and she inherited a young, but talented, roster that boasted 13 underclassmen.

On top of that, Iowa’s starting setter –Brie Orr– sat out the majority of the team’s final two months of play.

Despite all of that, the Hawkeyes still see a silver lining in their shortcomings last year.

“I think there’s more of an understanding of what we want to do and how we want to do it [this season],” Brown said. “So, when you understand the plan, it’s more about finding ways to execute it throughout the day. I think we’re out of that learning phase. It’s now more about, ‘can we find the plan and execute it more often.’ We’re not learning our ABCs, we’re now saying words.”

Last season taught Brown and her Iowa team to be adaptable, and now that is paying off amid all the uncertainty around the upcoming volleyball season. The Hawkeyes have turned the postponement of their season into a positive by utilizing the extra time to get their young squad geared up for action sometime soon.

“We lost a lot of time when our spring was cut short,” Brown said. “I think this [break] will help kind of balance things out a little more.”

The added break this fall also gives Iowa’s 24th-ranked recruiting class of 2019 more time to gel.

“I think they’re still riding on the wave of like, ‘hey I love volleyball, let’s keep playing volleyball,’” Brown said. “It’s always great to see your sophomores, when they come into practice, their eyes are lit up with excitement. They’re our sense of lightness, and they really have brought a lot of positivity and just the right mentality of working every day, throughout the day.”

Now that the Hawkeyes’ youth has been integrated into the team system, fully, it appears as if the team as a whole is ready to take a big step forward this season.

“The plan is always to have a postseason,” Brown said. “Whatever that looks like remains to be established, but we are always thinking going into practice to be better than we were yesterday. So, that was always going to be our way we got to the next step, next progression this year. It’s a little bit of a, ‘you don’t know what the end could be and what that looks like, but if we’re going in every day getting better than we were yesterday, we’re still working toward that progression.’”

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