Iowa volleyball set for two Big Ten foes

The Hawkeyes will face Illinois on the road for the second time this season, before returning to Xtream Arena on Saturday to match up against Northwestern.


Dimia Burrell

Michigan State outside hitter Biamba Kabengele hits the ball towards Iowa middle back Hannah Clayton and right side Courtney Buzzerio during a volleyball game between Iowa and Michigan State at the Carver Hawkeye Arena on Oct. 1, 2021. The Trojans defeated the Hawkeyes 3 sets to 0.

Dawson Moore, Sports Reporter

Iowa volleyball will travel to Champaign this week to face off against Illinois for the second time this season.

The Hawkeyes first played Illinois Sept. 22 in their Big Ten opener, falling in five sets.

Now, Iowa is riding an eight-match losing streak, including an 0-5 record in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes have sole possession of the bottom of the conference standings.

The Hawkeyes thought they played their best match of the season against Illinois almost a month ago — with confidence, energy, and consistency. Iowa notched nine service aces against Illini and forced them out of system throughout the match.

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“I think that was one of our best combined matches we played as a team,” senior outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio said. “Falling so short causes that loss to hurt more than any other loss this season. I think we’re just all excited to go to Illinois and getting to play them again.”

Buzzerio wreaked havoc against the Illini in their first meeting, tallying 24 kills in the match. But the senior has been struggling as of late, coming off the bench for the first time this season against No. 4 Wisconsin and only registering three kills against No. 6 Purdue.

Hawkeye setters Bailey Ortega and Jenna Splitt also had an efficient match, each finishing with over 20 assists against the Illini Sept. 22.

Illinois had three players finish the match with double-digit kills in the Hawkeyes’ and Illini’s first meeting— graduate student outside hitter Megan Cooney led the way with 17, junior right side hitter Jessica Nunge finished with 14, and sophomore outside hitter Raina Terry tallied 10 on the evening.

Cooney and Terry have continued their production for the Illini, each registering over 200 kills on the season — with the help of junior setter Diana Brown, who has racked up 681 assists.

After the match against Illinois on Wednesday, the Hawkeyes will return to Xtream Arena to host Northwestern on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

The Wildcats currently have a 7-10 overall record, including 2-4 in Big Ten play. Northwestern will play at No. 12 Minnesota before venturing to Xtream Arena.

Northwestern is led by junior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara, who leads the Wildcats with 262 kills in the 2021 campaign. Wildcat junior outside hitter Hanna Lesiak has also been dominant for the Wildcats, tallying 187 kills.

“Slowing down Illinois and Northwestern’s outside hitters will help us be successful this week,” head coach Vicki Brown said. “Serving tough is also crucial, because it allows us to put teams out of system. Also, making sure we are able to utilize all of our hitters is key.”

The Hawkeyes will take on Northwestern a total of two times in the 2021 fall season, traveling to Evanston, Illinois, on Oct. 23 for a matchup against the Wildcats. Iowa has a total of 14 matches left on the Big Ten slate, as the season concludes Nov. 27 against Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania.

Iowa will face Illinois on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., and Northwestern Saturday at 7 p.m. Both matches will be streamed on BTN+.