Iowa volleyball returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for last home series of the season

Iowa will take on a 2-9 Michigan State team that has dealt with COVID-19-related issues throughout the 2020-21 season.


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 the Rutgers 3-1.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Iowa volleyball will return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena this weekend for its last home series of the season.

The Hawkeyes will welcome Michigan State to Iowa City.

The road to the end of the 2020-21 season has been brutal for Michigan State, as it had to postpone six of its matches to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its volleyball program.

“Michigan State definitely has holes where we have the potential to expose those,” head coach Vicki Brown said. “Being at home, we’re just going to go for putting our focus on our side and cleaning up certain things as we go into the week.”

Four of the six opponents Michigan State has faced this season currently reside inside the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) top 15.

The Spartans rank near the bottom of the Big Ten Conference in most statistical categories.

The Hawkeyes haven’t shined in 2020-21 either, clawing their way to a 3-13 record that is good for 11th in the Big Ten Conference standings.

“We always tell, even those that we’re recruiting and our athletes coming in, that you will receive a challenge every weekend,” Brown said. “Is it ideal? No. Are we comfortable in that position? No, but you can only impact what’s in front of you.”

Freshmen Celia Cullen and Sarah Franklin have starred for the Spartans this season.

Cullen is Michigan State’s setter, and Franklin was the Spartans’ primary offensive option before she sustained a season-ending arm injury.

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The Hawkeyes have been led by the same player all season long — junior Courtney Buzzerio. The Chino Hills, California, native leads the team in kills and ranks second on the Hawkeyes’ roster in digs.

Buzzerio has been going through a slump of late, however, as she has only averaged 8.3 kills and 14.3 assists in Iowa’s last four matches.

“The challenge that we continue to face and that we are working towards is, ‘How do we maintain our identity?’” Brown said. “With a young team, we are still finding that self-identity no matter who we are playing against.”

The Hawkeyes have also seen less production from their back row as of late, with libero Joslyn Boyer falling out of the conference’s top ten in digs even after a six-game stretch that saw her average 18.5 digs per set.

As a team, Iowa now ranks 13th in the Big Ten in digs per set.

Michigan State’s libero, senior Jamye Cox, ranks ninth in the league in digs per set.

“I go into every weekend trying to be better than the last,” Boyer said. “Definitely this weekend, being the last one at home, I want to go out with the best, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Iowa will face Michigan State at 6 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Both matches will be streamed on BTN +.

The Hawkeyes will wrap up their season next weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota, against the Golden Gophers.

Iowa’s final game of the season will air on national television on ESPNU April 3.