Iowa volleyball set to open Big Ten play against Illinois, Nebraska

The Hawkeyes will take on the Illini Wednesday night at Xtream Arena, before traveling to Nebraska Saturday.


Larry Phan

Right side Courtney Buzzerio goes for a kill against two Ball State blockers during the volleyball match between Iowa and Ball State on Friday, Sept 10, 2021. The Cardinals defeated the Hawkeyes 3-2.

Dawson Moore, Sports Reporter

Iowa volleyball will open Big Ten Conference play in front of fans for the first time since 2019 this Wednesday. 

The Hawkeyes played their first season at Xtream Arena in spring 2020, but fans were not allowed because of COVID-19.

Following a 2-8 end to nonconference play, the Hawkeyes have been locked in ahead of their first conference match of the season against Illinois.

“It’s the start of a new season,” senior outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio said.

Buzzerio has been the focal point of Hawkeye volleyball in the 2021 fall season, posting double-digit kills in every match so far this season. Through 10 matches, Buzzerio has accumulated 182 kills.

The senior from Chino Hills, California, plays in every rotation for the Hawkeyes, notching 67 digs on the season. The Hawkeyes’ starting libero, senior Maddie Slagle, has accumulated 119 digs.

Sophomore Bailey Ortega also plays every rotation for the Hawkeyes as their lone setter. Ortega shared the setter role with Buzzerio in the 2020-21 spring season, before Buzzerio transitioned back to solely outside hitter this fall. The setter from Davenport, Iowa, has 390 assists on the season, averaging 10 assists per set.

Big Ten volleyball is one of the most competitive conferences in the NCAA, boasting six teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 9 Minnesota, No. 12 Nebraska, and No. 20 Penn State.

Iowa’s conference opener at Xtream Arena in Coralville will be a whiteout game at 6 p.m., per Iowa Athletics. The game will be aired on Big Ten Network.

Illinois volleyball is 8-3 heading into the match against the Hawkeyes. The Illini are coming off a successful weekend at the Redbird Classic, where they did not lose a single set in the tournament.

Junior Diana Brown, the reigning Big Ten Setter of the Week, leads the Illini. Brown, Illinois’s sole setter, has 418 assists through 11 games. 

Illinois sophomore outside hitter Raina Terry is the forefront of the Illini offense, with 130 kills in the 2021 season.

“Illinois is a tough serving team, defensive team, who keeps the ball in play,” Hawkeye head coach Vicki Brown said.

After their matchup with Illinois, the Hawkeyes will travel to the Devaney Center in Lincoln to match up with ranked Big Ten foe Nebraska on Saturday afternoon.

The Huskers started the season ranked within the top five of the preseason AVCA poll, but after three straight losses to No. 20 Utah, No. 16 Stanford, and No. 5 Louisville, Nebraska dropped to No. 12.

Nebraska is 6-3 on the season, posting wins over No. 19 Creighton, Georgia, and Kansas State. The Huskers will open Big Ten play at Northwestern on Wednesday night. 

Senior outside hitter and two-time All-American Lexi Sun leads the Huskers with 77 kills and 12 aces. Sun is in her fifth year with the Huskers, as she utilized the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility to all 2020-21 student-athletes because of COVID-19.

The Hawkeyes will take on the Huskers at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The match will be streamed on BTN+.