Iowa volleyball returns to Xtream Arena for two-game homestand against Rutgers

Both the Hawkeyes and Scarlet Knights have struggled so far this season as neither team boasts a winning record.


Casey Stone

Iowa Defensive Specialist Joslyn Boyer bumps the ball during the Iowa Volleyball game against Indiana on Feb. 6, 2021 at Xtream Arena. Indiana defeated Iowa 3-2. (Casey Stone/The Daily Iowan)

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Iowa volleyball will return to action at Xtream Arena this weekend, as it looks to get back in the win column against Rutgers.

The 1-7 Hawkeyes will take on a struggling Scarlet Knights team that has dropped its last four matches.

“We are heading into the middle of a short season, so it is really just about, ‘What is our progression?’” head coach Vicki Brown said. “We’re getting the opportunities to win sets, but we need to work past just positioning ourselves and actually finishing the set.”

Iowa lost both of its matches in straight sets in its road trip to Ohio State last weekend.

Rutgers comes to Coralville after facing AVCA top 10 opponents back-to-back.

No. 1 Wisconsin stomped Rutgers in two matches in Madison, and then fourth-ranked Nebraska swept the Scarlet Knights in New Jersey.

Like Iowa, Rutgers sits near the bottom of the Big Ten in every statistical category this season. The Scarlet Knights are last in opponent hitting percentage, assists, kills, and service aces.

“We also know that they have played more top-heavy opponents the last few weeks, so we can understand where that stat line is coming from,” Brown said. “It’s the Big Ten, no matter who you play against they are always going to bring their best.”

Sophomore Kyndra Hansen missed her third and fourth matches of the season last weekend due to an undisclosed injury that she suffered before the season. Her availability for this weekend’s matchup against Rutgers is unclear.

Replacing Hansen in the lineup last week was junior middle blocker Amiya Jones, who made her season debut on Friday. Jones has been an everyday starter since her freshman year, and she led the Hawkeyes in hitting percentage last season, posting a .305 mark — good for 13th in the Big Ten.

RELATED: Boyer booms in second season in Black and Gold

“Amiya was a key starter for the last two years, and we were just waiting to get the clear from the doctors to give her that opportunity,” Brown said. “With anyone coming in after being injured and then the first weekend is a Big Ten team on the road, there is going to be a slow start.”

Rutgers went 8-23 last season and managed only two conference wins compared to Iowa’s four conference victories and 10-21 record.

Rutgers won the only matchup between the two teams last season in straight sets, but Iowa holds the all-time series lead, 8-1.

“At the end of the day, for each match we are focusing on ourselves throughout the week,” junior middle blocker Hannah Clayton said. “Bringing in those digging techniques and blocking and focusing on ourselves this week in our preparation for Rutgers because I know they are going to bring everything they have against us.”

Senior hitters Beka Kojadinovic and Kamila Cieslik are the focal points of Rutgers’ offense, leading the Scarlet Knights in kills.

Setting duties have almost exclusively fallen upon junior Inna Balyko who leads the team in assists with 200. Balyko also received Big Ten Setter of the Week honors on Feb. 1 after putting up 78 assists in Rutgers’ two-game series against Indiana.

“[Rutgers] really shows that they love running their offense out-of-system, so it’s really just redefining our defense out-of-system and finding more opportunities to get in rhythm from a transition offensive standpoint,” Brown said.

Iowa will play Rutgers at Xtream Arena on Friday and Saturday at 4 p.m. Both matches will be streamed on BTN+.


Facebook Comments