Iowa volleyball notebook | Hawkeyes prepare for Cardinal and Gold Challenge

The Hawkeyes went 0-2 last weekend at the Pac 12-Big Ten Challenge in Boulder, Colorado. This weekend they will travel to Ames and take on Wright State, Iowa State, and Drake.


Isabella Cervantes

Iowa head coach Jim Barnes speaks with media during an Iowa women’s volleyball media conference and scrimmage at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Barnes became head coach in 2021. Barnes is the 11th coach of the team.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

Iowa volleyball is now 2-3 on the season after losing to Washington and Colorado in the Pac 12-Big Ten Challenge in Boulder, Colorado, last weekend. 

The Hawkeyes battled through every set but dropped both matches, 3-0, as errors and an ankle injury to sophomore outside hitter Toyosi Onabanjo sealed Iowa’s fate.

How it happened

Iowa took on the 13th-ranked Huskies, and Washington controlled the first set on Saturday. Iowa tied it, 3-3, early on, but couldn’t keep up. The Huskies rolled to a 25-15 win. 

The second set was more balanced, but Washington pulled ahead late to claim it, 25-21. Iowa held even with Washington, but after a 15-15 tie through the first part of the second set, the Huskies took four of the next five points and coasted to victory. 

Onabanjo sustained her injury midway through the second set and didn’t return for the remainder of the weekend. 

“That was a tough deal,” Iowa head coach Jim Barnes said. “At that point, we never played quite to our level after she came out of the game.”

Onabanjo said she is focused on strengthening her ankle in hopes of returning to the court this weekend in the Cardinal and Gold Challenge in Ames. 

“But honestly, I’m feeling great and I’m ready for this weekend hoping I can go in,” Onabanjo said. 

Washington completed the three-set sweep, taking the final stanza, 25-19.

Against the Huskies, sophomore outside hitter Michelle Urquhart led the Hawkeyes with a .438 hitting percentage and recorded eight kills. Redshirt senior setter Lily Tessier totaled 36 assists, while senior libero Mari Hinkle tallied 13 helpers. 

On Sunday, Iowa faced Colorado on its home court in the CU Events Center.

The Buffaloes — who received votes in this week’s rankings — swept the Hawkeyes, 25-20, 25-16, and 25-21, respectively. Tessier led the Hawkeyes in assists for the second straight match with 25, and Hinkle recorded a team-high 14 digs. 

Despite the two losses, Barnes said Iowa will use the weekend and its stout competition to improve.

“We learned a lot,” Barnes said. “When you play ranked teams, that’s where you want to be. You got to play the teams you want to become.”

RELATED: How Michelle Urquhart went from Tulane to Iowa volleyball

Hinkle named to All-Tournament team

Hinkle was named to the Pac 12-Big Ten Challenge All-Tournament team after she tallied 27 digs over the two matches. Hinkle is currently leading the Big Ten in digs with an average of 4.69 digs per set. 

“You want your senior to play the way she did,” Barnes said. “She’s a dynamic player, plays hard all the time. She’s going to help us get there.”

Room to improve: Iowa defense 

Barnes emphasized his team needs to do better defensively, specifically with blocking. Iowa sits 10th in the Big Ten in opponent kills, allowing an average of 11.75 kills per set.

“We have to get to the next level in blocking,” Barnes said. “If we can stop opponents, that’s where you’re going to win … So really what we are focusing on now with our middles is blocking better.”

Fifth-year senior middle hitter Amiya Jones reiterated the importance of defense and said she is working hard on her blocking technique.

“I can make sure we are funneling the ball to the right people and stopping teams when we need to stop them,” Jones said.       

What’s next? 

Iowa is now turning its focus to this weekend and preparing for the Cardinal and Gold Challenge in Ames. Iowa will face off against Wright State and Iowa State on Friday before battling Drake on Saturday. 

Wake Forest transfer from Center Point, Iowa, Delaney McSweeney, will compete in her first Cy-Hawk game.

“I was born as a Hawkeye,” McSweeney said. “We were a Hawkeye household growing up. So, I’m just really excited to get out there and take down other Iowa teams.”

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