Iowa volleyball travels to Minneapolis for final series of the season

After an abnormal spring, the Hawkeyes will wrap up their 2020-21 season with doubleheader against Minnesota.



Iowa Setter Bailey Ortega jumps up after a win during a volleyball match between Iowa and Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, March 27, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans 3-0.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

After a little over two months of a unique spring volleyball season, the Hawkeyes will travel to Minneapolis this weekend for a season-closing doubleheader with No. 3 Minnesota.

The last series of the year may be the toughest the Hawkeyes face. Iowa enters the match 4-14, while Minnesota does so at 13-2.

“We are definitely [a team] that will keep going,” Hawkeye head coach Vicki Brown said. “Our effort and our focus are what’s in front of us now.”

Iowa has recently experienced what it’s like to take on a top-10 opponent, as they were swept by No. 4 Nebraska just two weeks ago.

Nebraska and Minnesota are very similar teams. Both squads have returning American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Americans, with the Golden Gophers hosting first-team All-American middle blocker Regan Pittman and second-team All-American Stephanie Samedy.

“Nebraska and Minnesota are very similar in demeanor on the court,” junior outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio said. “They know they’re good and they know what they do works, and I’m sure they think smaller teams like us will fall apart just at the name of Minnesota or Nebraska.”

Minnesota ranks third in the conference in blocks and second in digs, so it might be tough for Iowa’s young outside hitters to find open space this weekend.

Pittman and sophomore middle blocker Shea Rubright both rank inside the Big Ten’s top 10 in blocks per set.

Rounding out Minnesota’s potent defense is first-team All-Big Ten libero CC McGraw, who ranks third in the league in digs per set.

RELATED: Young outside hitters set to lead Iowa volleyball’s future

“We’ve really had four matches where we have seen some pretty tough defensive teams,” Brown said. “Maryland with their block and then Nebraska with their back row picking up a lot of balls. Minnesota will combine both elements within their defense.”

If the Hawkeyes are to penetrate the Golden Gophers’ defense, they’ll likely need to get Buzzerio more involved offensively than they have over the past four games. Buzzerio is currently riding a four-game streak that has not seen her eclipse the double-digit kill threshold even once.

Sophomore outside hitter Edina Schmidt has picked up some of the slack of late, however, registering 22 kills in two matches against Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last weekend.

“I think we learned that with them having a similar demeanor as Nebraska of being a little more chill and not as energetic as we are that we need [energy] to be successful,” Buzzerio said. “Having our consistent culture throughout the match.”

Minnesota currently sits in third place in the Big Ten standings, one game back of Nebraska.

With two wins over Iowa and a Nebraska loss to No. 11 Penn State this weekend, the Golden Gophers could move up a spot in the league standings.

Minnesota would also find itself in second place with one win over Iowa and two Cornhusker losses.

Iowa will face Minnesota at 5 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Maturi Pavillion in Minneapolis. Friday’s match can be streamed on BTN+ and Saturday’s match will air on ESPNU.

Facebook Comments