Hawkeye volleyball to open season Saturday at Coastal Carolina Invitational

Iowa will take on Duke and Coastal Carolina in a doubleheader in Conway, South Carolina.

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Jerod Ringwald

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


The Hawkeye volleyball team will open the 2021 season Saturday with a doubleheader against Duke and Coastal Carolina at the Coastal Carolina Invitational.

Saturday’s matches will pin the Hawkeyes against their first nonconference opponents since September 2019 as Iowa participated in a Big Ten-only slate in spring 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hawkeye volleyball program has a 3-1 overall record against Duke and a 6-1 edge in the all-time series against Coastal Carolina.

“I am super excited to get back on the floor,” said junior outside hitter Edina Schmidt.  “What people can expect is definitely a highly competitive, high-energy team with all 18 of us brought into the mission.”

With no seniors on the roster last season, the 15 players are returning to the Hawkeyes for the fall with three newcomers.

Five Hawkeyes reached the 100-kill mark last spring — Schmidt, outside hitters Courtney Buzzerio and Audrey Black, and middle blockers Hannah Clayton and Blythe Rients. Sophomore Bailey Ortega — Iowa’s assist leader from last season — will also return to the team this fall.

“I think the biggest competition for us was with our outside [hitter] position,” head coach Vicki Brown said. “They all have different uniqueness and styles to their game, so we are looking forward to having yet another week of working within that starting lineup.”

Duke finished with a 9-13 record in 2020-21 and checked in at No. 9 in the ACC preseason poll. 

The Blue Devils had one of the top defenses in the ACC last spring, registering the second-most digs per set and fourth-lowest opponent hitting percentage in the conference. 

The Duke defense will return key names from last season, including second-team All-ACC libero Mackenzie Cole. 

RELATED: Hawkeye volleyball set to return to the court

After 18 straight wins, Coastal Carolina finished just short of an NCAA tournament bid last season with a loss to No. 15 Texas State in the Sun Belt conference championship. 

“Duke and Coastal Carolina are very respected programs when it comes to what they do in their conference, and we are looking for it to be a competitive weekend,” Brown said.

Since taking over the program in 2019, Brown has a winning percentage of .546 in 11 nonconference matches. Brown’s winning percentage against Big Ten opponents is .200. 

Under Brown’s leadership, the Hawkeyes also picked up key nonconference victories in 2019 against No. 22 Washington State and James Madison University. 

“We have gone into weekends before with this program where we knew we had challenges with teams that were used to winning in the Pac-12, or James Madison for example,” Brown said. “We have seen this style of weekend before, so we’re excited to go in and compete.”

The Hawkeyes went into the preseason wondering who could lead the backcourt as Iowa’s libero — with Joslyn Boyer transferring to Wisconsin in May, competition for the alternate-colored jersey came down to senior Maddie Slagle and UCLA transfer Mari Hinkle.

“Maddie Slagle will be our starting libero,” Brown said. “She’s worked for it, and she has also developed her leadership, and she 100 percent earned it.”

Earlier this week the Big Ten announced its preseason volleyball poll, as voted on by conference coaches.

Iowa checks in at No. 12 in the 14-team league, topping only Indiana and Maryland. 

“To me, being the underdog is always the best place to be,” Clayton said. “People aren’t going to expect much from us, and we have a lot to prove.”

The Hawkeyes will take on Duke at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina, before facing Coastal Carolina later that day at 6 p.m.

The match against Coastal Carolina will air on ESPN+.

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