Iowa volleyball notebook | Hawkeyes prepare for Pac-12-Big Ten Challenge

The Hawkeyes went 2-1 in its season-opening tournament in Norman, Oklahoma, and will travel to Boulder, Colorado, this weekend.


Isabella Cervantes

Iowa middle hitter Delaney McSweeney blocks the ball from middle hitter Amiya Jones during an Iowa women’s volleyball media conference and scrimmage at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

The Iowa volleyball team traveled to Norman, Oklahoma, last weekend, facing off against Gonzaga, Florida International, and Oklahoma inside McCasland Field House.

The Hawkeyes started out the weekend with a 2-0 record for the first time since 2019 under new head coach Jim Barnes. The two wins came against Gonzaga out of the West Coast Conference and FIU out of Conference USA. Iowa ended the weekend with a three-set loss against Oklahoma in front of a packed home crowd for the Sooners.

“It was fun,” Barnes said about finally seeing the players on the court in a real-game situation. “We’ve only been together in practice for two and a half weeks, and with nine newcomers, we have learned a lot about each other in that span. I’m just proud of the way we pulled it together on the road.”

How it happened 

Iowa played Gonzaga for the first time in program history on Friday, and the Hawkeyes completed a three-set sweep of the Bulldogs.

The first set between the Hawkeyes and the Bulldogs went back and forth until Iowa pulled away towards the end to win, 25-15. The second set was more in favor of the Hawkeyes from start to finish. Iowa jumped out to an early 6-1 lead and got up by as many as 13 points. Iowa claimed victory in the second set, 25-13.

The third set was another scrappy match between both squads that resulted in a 25-18 Iowa victory. Iowa’s Michelle Urquhart led the match with 17 kills and 10 digs.

The win was Iowa’s first sweep of the season and its first since Sept. 17, 2021, when it took down University of the Incarnate Word.

Iowa matched up against Florida International later Friday night, which marked the third meeting all-time between the two programs. Iowa held the lead for a majority of the first set, but the Cougars had a late surge to secure the win, 25-23.

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The Hawkeyes bounced back in the second set. It was tied, 18-18, before Iowa went on a late seven-point scoring run to win, 25-18. FIU and Iowa battled through the third and fourth sets, but the Hawkeyes reigned victorious, 25-16 and 25-17, respectively.

On Saturday, the Hawkeyes were swept by the Sooners.

Barnes said the packed Sooner crowd made it a tough environment for Hawkeyes and caused them to be more inattentive.

“We had our chances to win that match as well,” Barnes said of Oklahoma. “We are disappointed we didn’t pull out that game. As we looked on film, if our left sides had a little more production, we could have flipped the score … But those are things we can learn from to give us a chance to go into this next tournament and play better.”

McSweeney, Onabanjo earn All-Tournament team honors

Wake Forest transfer middle hitter Delaney McSweeney and sophomore outside hitter Toyosi Onabanjo had a strong showing for Iowa in the opening weekend, earning spots on the Oklahoma Invitational All-Tournament team.

Both recorded attack percentages above .300 and combined for 48 kills.

McSweeney showcased her defense, recording a .95 blocking percentage. Onabanjo led the team with 13 kills and an attack percentage of .476 against Oklahoma.

“I had a lot of fun in the past tournament,” Onabanjo said. “I just tried to be really competitive and really aggressive on my swings, so I think it paid off.”

Urquhart’s two double-doubles

Urquhart, one of the seven transfers brought in by Barnes, had a big opening weekend with the Hawkeyes, recording double-doubles in both matches Friday.

Against Gonzaga, Urquhart earned her first double-double of the season with 17 kills, 10 digs, four blocks, and two aces.

That same night versus FIU, Urquhart had 10 kills, 12 digs, and two assists, which earned the outside hitter her second double-double of the day.

Urquhart had a quieter game on Saturday, but still managed five kills and 10 digs, putting her as the overall team leader with 32 kills.

Up next

Iowa will travel to Boulder, Colorado, this weekend for the Pac-12-Big Ten Challenge inside CU Events Center. Iowa will play Washington at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Colorado at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. In the all-time series with Colorado and Washington, Iowa is 0-3 and 0-4, respectively.

“The girls know it’s going to be a challenge,” said Barnes. “One thing we won’t do is go into those games tentatively. We are going to come out attacking these teams and learning from the OU match.”

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