Iowa volleyball loses to Michigan State after strong first set

The Hawkeyes won the first set of Friday’s match, 25-18, but lost their groove shortly after.


Ryan Adams

Iowa outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio and Iowa middle blocker Blythe Rients block a spike during a volleyball match between the University of Iowa and Ohio State University at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, November 29, 2019. The Buckeyes defeated the Hawkeyes 3-1.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

After a 25-18 first-set victory against Michigan State Friday night, Iowa volleyball seemed to be well on its way to its first win in the month of March.

The Hawkeyes, however, proceeded to drop the next three sets, 25-22, 25-13, and 25-21 to extend their losing streak to five matches.

Offensive issues plagued Iowa throughout the evening, as the Hawkeyes’ attack percentage bottomed out at -.026 in the third set.

“We let a lot of balls just go through our hands on the block … and the backside ball,” Iowa head volleyball coach Vicki Brown said postgame. “We had good moments on our block and then we had good moments on our defense. We just weren’t able to put it together throughout a whole rally.”

In addition to the attacking woes, Iowa also had to suffer through nine total services errors — five of which occurred in the second set alone.

Junior outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio was responsible for two of the service errors in the second set.

“I think nerves,” Buzzerio said of her serving difficulties. “Especially if the person in front of you misses, it’s like you’re thinking about not missing and that’s definitely the opposite kind of the mindset. You should go in like you’re going in to make your serve instead of missing your serve.”

The first set went down the way the Hawkeyes wanted it to. Iowa took an early 8-3 lead thanks to six attack errors by Michigan State. After an early Spartan timeout, the Hawkeyes then extended their lead to 12-4, which led to another Spartan timeout.

The Hawkeyes had 11 kills in the first set, with three players racking up three kills each. The Hawkeyes boasted a .241 first-set attack percentage compared to the Spartans’ .091 percentage.

“I think definitely finding our middles early was working,” Brown said. “The backside ball with Courtney and Blythe was working. I think [sophomore outside hitter Edina Schmidt] as a back row option was working.”

Schmidt led the Hawkeyes with 10 kills, but leading in a statistical category didn’t bring her any joy without a team victory.

“Honestly, that’s not what I’m focusing on,” Schmidt said. “I do the best out on the court for my teammates and that’s not something I pay a lot of attention to because I want my team to play well, and I do everything I have on the court to support every single one of my teammates as well.”

Brown did complement two players after the game, noting that Slagle and sophomore libero Joslyn Boyer have been doing a nice job in the backcourt. Boyer led the team Friday with 16 digs. The Downers Grove, Illinois, native has now cracked the double-digit digs threshold in 12 matches this season.

Iowa — now 3-14 overall — will have a rematch against 3-9 Michigan State at  6 p.m. Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The match will be Iowa’s last at home in 2020-21.

Despite their recent run of losses, the Hawkeyes still feel like they’ve gained something from each of their last five defeats.

“I feel like we’re having this lesson a lot, but just maintain our culture and the way we play, and not allowing the other team to change the way we play,” Buzzerio said. “I think we’re usually a team that’s full of energy, and when we’re going, we are going, and it’s pretty hard to stop, but we make a couple errors, we kind of go down to other teams.”

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