Iowa volleyball set for doubleheader in Evanston

After receiving Big Ten Player of the Week honors for her play against Rutgers, junior Courtney Buzzerio will look to lead the Hawkeyes past a 2-2 Wildcats squad this weekend.


Grace Kreber

Iowa’s Courtney Buzzerio passes the ball during the Iowa vs Rutgers match at Xtream Arena on Feb. 19, 2021. Iowa defeated the Rutgers 3-1.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

With the 2020-21 season’s midway point fast approaching, Iowa volleyball hopes to find some consistency this weekend as they travel to Evanston, Illinois, to take on Northwestern.

The 2-8 Hawkeyes split their two-game series against Rutgers at home last weekend. Now, they aim to carry some of that momentum with them to Evanston.

“The main word is consistency,” Hawkeye head coach Vicki Brown said. “How can you consistently find the court; how do you consistently beat it past the block … the big thing is really that Saturday match. The information that we received on Friday, how do we take that into account and then understand that teams will make adjustments.”

Among the Hawkeyes looking to build upon solid individual performances against the Scarlet Knights is junior Courtney Buzzerio.

Buzzerio was named Big Ten Player of the Week for her performance against Rutgers. She is the first Hawkeye volleyball player to receive the honor since Reghan Coyle did so in October 2016.

Buzzerio posted eight kills, 26 assists, and 11 digs against the Scarlet Knights Feb. 20. She then followed that performance with a 27-assist, 19-kill showing Feb. 21.

Playing as both a setter and an outside hitter for the Hawkeyes this season, Buzzerio has stuffed the stat sheet. She is leading the team in kills and aces with 92 and 12, respectively.

She is also second on the team in both assists and digs with 170 and 75, respectively.

“Courtney always demands the ball,” Freshman setter Baily Ortega said. “She’s always someone we can count on and the coaches know that. She’s able to put it away almost every time and that’s the kind of player that we need to go to in those tight situations.”

Both Buzzerio and Ortega will have to contend with Northwestern’s star outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara this weekend.

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Ailara was a second team All-Big Ten player in 2019, and she currently ranks second in the conference in kills per set at 4.38.

Ailara is also Northwestern’s second-leading blocker with 13.

“[Ailara’s] uniqueness in this conference is that she is actually moving from pin to pin,” Brown said. “It’s really about knowing where she’s at and making sure that we are keeping the pressure on their passers to give our defense an out-of-system setup instead of in-system.”

Iowa will also have to watch out for junior setter Kiara McNulty – who is ninth in the Big Ten in assists per set – and Nia Robinson, who has only played two matches this season but finished in the top 10 in the league in kills per set last season.

So far, the Wildcats have only participated in four matches this season.

After sweeping their season-opening series against Rutgers, the Wildcats were forced to pause team activities because of COVID-19. As a result, Northwestern’s next six matches were postponed.

The Wildcats returned to the court last weekend and were swept by No. 11 Purdue in a two-day doubleheader.

“They’re two different opponents, we have actually played against them,” Brown said. “Seeing what worked against Rutgers and things like that … it gives us a little bit more information of what worked for them and why it worked.”

The Hawkeyes will play against Northwestern on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. Both matches will be streamed on BTN+.

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