Iowa volleyball returns to Xtream Arena for two-match homestand

After an 0-2 start to Big Ten play, Iowa will face off against Michigan and Michigan State in Coralville this weekend.


Grace Smith

Iowa right side Courtney Buzzerio spikes the ball during a volleyball game between Iowa and Illinois at Xtreme Arena in Coralville, Iowa, on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes with a score of 3-2. (Grace Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Dawson Moore, Sports Reporter

Iowa volleyball will face Michigan on Saturday night at Xtream Arena for the first time since 2018.

The Hawkeyes played a modified conference-only season in 2020 because of COVID-19, and Iowa didn’t face the Wolverines in Big Ten play.

“We haven’t seen them in three years,” head coach Vicki Brown said. “We’re a completely different team look-wise and so are they. It should be interesting and also exciting to see them live for the first time since 2018.”

Iowa faced the Wolverines in two conference matchups in the 2018 season. The Hawkeyes fell in both matches, only winning one set between the two contests.

Only four current Hawkeye seniors were on the team in 2018: outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio, middle blockers Hannah Clayton and Amiya Jones, and libero Maddie Slagle.

“I believe that overall, having not played Michigan since 2018 will be an advantage for us heading into the match,” Brown said.

Iowa’s four seniors have not faced Michigan since their freshman year. During that time, Buzzerio, Clayton, Jones, and Slagle have developed into very tenacious players for the Hawkeyes.

Buzzerio leads Iowa volleyball with 219 kills. Jones and Clayton rank in the top five of Iowa program history hitting percentage — Jones ranks fifth with at .287, and Clayton ranks second at .292. Clayton also ranks 15th all-time with 270 career blocks — one away from 14th.

Slagle, Iowa’s starting libero, leads the Hawkeyes with 150 digs this season.

Before Iowa’s long-awaited match against Michigan on Saturday, the Hawkeyes will face off against Michigan State Friday night at Xtream Arena.

The Spartans are 7-4 heading into the match and 0-2 to start Big Ten play.

Michigan State is led by redshirt freshman outside hitter Sarah Franklin, who tops the Spartan leaderboard with 134 kills on the season.

“Michigan State is primarily in a 6-2, which offers a big block with all six rotations,” Brown said.

Michigan State is a defensive-minded team and the Spartans have out-blocked their opponents 89.5 to 55, and have three players with over 20 blocks on the 2021 campaign.

Iowa faced the Spartans twice last season, splitting the matches with a win and a loss.

RELATED: Iowa volleyball swept by No. 12 Nebraska

Following the match against the Spartans, the Hawkeyes will face off against Michigan on Saturday at Xtream Arena.

The Wolverines are currently 8-3 with a 1-1 record in Big Ten play, and take on No. 12 Nebraska Friday night before heading to Iowa City.

The Wolverines are led by All-American senior outside hitter Paige Jones, who has amassed over 1,000 kills for the Wolverines in her career. She leads Michigan with 179 kills in the 2021 season.

Michigan has three players with over 100 kills and relies on sophomore setter Scottee Johnson to set up her teammates. Johnson currently has 405 assists in 2021.

Defensive inconsistency has held the Hawkeyes back from winning their first Big Ten match of the season. The Hawkeyes have been out-blocked 114-70 in the fall season.

“Having all of our pieces working together at all times on the court is key,” Buzzerio said. “And we just need to find consistency with our backcourt and frontcourt play and that will help us make it over the hump.”

Both of the Hawkeyes’ matches this weekend will be at 7 p.m. at Xtream Arena in Coralville. The two contests will stream on BTN+.