Iowa volleyball adjusts to schedule variation

Iowa will play at home Wednesday night before traveling to Nebraska on Saturday.


Grace Kreber

Iowa head coach Vicki Brown talks to players from the sidelines during the Iowa vs Rutgers match at Xtream Arena on Feb. 19, 2021. Iowa defeated Rutgers, 3-1.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

The last time Iowa volleyball took on Nebraska was November 16, 2019. Nebraska was ranked No. 6 in the country at the time with only three losses on the season, and the Hawkeyes were riding a five-match losing streak.

A week prior to the Nov. 16 matchup, the Hawkeyes had been blown out by the Cornhuskers at home. The second contest between the two in 2019, however, wasn’t the same as the first, as the Hawkeyes actually jumped out to a 2-1 lead before falling in a five-set thriller.

Outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio registered the first triple-double of her career in that match and tallied a career-high 54 attack attempts.  It was the first ever five-set match between the two programs.

“I think we are all really excited to play them because of how it went last time,” Buzzerio said. “I think they might have a little seed of doubt in the back of their head of what happened last year because as a team they are pretty much the same.”

This season, the first matchup between Iowa and Nebraska was given a primetime slot on the Big Ten Network Wednesday. It is the first midweek match of the year for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa will then travel to Nebraska to complete the series against the 4th-ranked Cornhuskers on Saturday.

“It’s different, obviously, from what we have been doing and how our schedule has looked,” Buzzerio said. “Being home is easier because we get to sleep in our own beds on Tuesday night and sleep in them on Wednesday.”

Nebraska is near the top of the conference in every statistical category. They are in the top three in hitting percentage, assists, kills, and digs.

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First-team All-Big Ten setter Nicklin Hames is leading the conference in assists per set for the Cornhuskers, and Nebraska also has three players with over 120 kills this year including second-team All-American Lauren Stivrins and third-team All-American Lexi Sun.

“In 2019, we were serving well and getting them out-of-system,” head coach Vicki Brown said. “An out-of-system team puts a little less pressure on our defense to stop three hitters, instead now we are looking at more two or one.”

Sophomore libero Joslyn Boyer has been a critical part of Iowa’s defense this season — though her production has dropped off a bit after she played a scorching five-game stretch averaging 19.4 digs per match.

Boyer has put up about 11 digs per set across Iowa’s last two series.

“Unfortunately, I think some teams are trying to avoid [me], which isn’t very fun for me,” Boyer said. “At the same time, there are also things that I can work on.”

The Downers Grove, Illinois, native will look to match Nebraska’s 2019 Big Ten All-Freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles, who is currently one spot behind Boyer in the conference’s top 10 in digs per set.

“It could be Rutgers or it could be Nebraska, I go at it the same way,” Boyer said. “I trust my front row and I trust my defense.”

The Hawkeyes are coming off a disappointing series last weekend that saw them drop both legs of a doubleheader to Maryland on the road.

The Cornhuskers split their series with No. 11 Ohio State last weekend.

The Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers will face off on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Xtream Arena before traveling to Lincoln for a rematch at 6 p.m. Saturday.