Iowa volleyball’s Toyosi Onabanjo increases workload in 2022 season

Under first year Hawkeye head coach Jim Barnes, the sophomore outside hitter has made strides on both sides of the ball.


Larry Phan

Iowa middle blocker Toyosi Onabanjo and outside hitter Edina Schmidt go up to block a kill at a volleyball game between Iowa and Syracuse at the Xtreme Arena on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Syracuse defeated Iowa 3-1.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

Sophomore outside hitter Toyosi Onabanjo is one of eight returners on a team filled with newcomers. With nine new faces and a new head coach, Onabanjo has made it a priority this season to be whoever her teammates need her to be.

Whether that’s being a supporter off the court or more aggressive while she’s in the game, the Houston, Texas, native wants to become a leader in all aspects of the Iowa volleyball program.

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“My personal goals are to just keep working hard and be whoever my teammates need me to be,” Onabanjo said.

Onabanjo attended St. Agnes Academy where she earned first-team All-State as a junior in high school in 2019. Onabanjo’s team was crowned 2020 District Champions, 2020 Houston Open Champions, and 2020 FAST Tournament Champions.

Onabanjo had an unusual recruitment process, as it took place during the height of the pandemic. When the  COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to shut down throughout the U.S., Onabanjo couldn’t take visits to any potential teams. Although she couldn’t meet her teammates in-person before moving to Iowa City, the connections she made over Zoom were enough to persuade her to become a Hawkeye.

“I was on many different routes,” Onabanjo said. “I wasn’t able to take an official visit or anything like that. But the girls made me want to come here. They were very nice on Zoom calls and helped me a lot through my recruiting process.”

Onabanjo grew especially close to middle hitter Amiya Jones. As a fifth-year senior, Jones has taken on a critical leadership role. Now, Jones is trying to pass her skills on to Onabanjo.

“I’ve been trying to build her as the next leader on the team,” Jones said. “I have seen her grow in so many ways not just on the court but off the court. I’ve seen her become more of a leader this year. I’ve seen her put her foot down and try to create paths for the team to be more aggressive and competitive on the court. I’m just really excited for her to continue growing … I want her to become a better version of the legacy that I’ve left.”

Despite a head coach change and a 6-24 freshman season, Onabanjo stayed with the Hawkeyes in 2022. She competed in 38 of 107 sets in the 2021 season.

Onabanjo has made strides offensively and defensively this season, and her workload on the court has increased under first-year Hawkeye head coach Jim Barnes.

This season, she has already competed in 24 of 29 sets — she did not compete in five sets because of an ankle injury she sustained on Sept. 3 against Washington.

Onabanjo is third on the team with 72.5 points. In seven matches, she has more than doubled her amount of kills from last year, jumping from 26 to 61.

Onabanjo’s defensive productivity has also increased, going from 12 digs in the entire 2021 season to 14 already this year. She is on pace to exceed her block total of 10 from last season as well, as she sits with 8.5 blocks over seven matches.

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