Iowa volleyball’s Audrey Black continuing Hawkeye tradition

The outside hitter is originally from Colorado, but her family has connections to Iowa athletics.


Isabella Cervantes

Iowa outside hitter Audrey Black bumps the ball during an Iowa volleyball media conference and scrimmage at Xtream Arena in Coralville, on Aug. 20.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

Outside hitter Audrey Black from Aurora, Colorado, has made her case for being a  valuable player for Iowa volleyball this season.

Black was originally drawn to the Hawkeyes because of the city and the “Iowa Nice” attitude witnessed while on campus. But Black already had connections to the state of Iowa and the university before ever stepping foot in Iowa City.

Black’s great uncle, James Wearmouth, played football at Iowa.

“It’s kind of funny because I didn’t find that out until after I committed,” Black said. “And then I found out my grandparents were from Iowa. They were like, ‘We’re from Sioux City, did you know that?’ I guess my dad just failed to mention that to me.”

Wearmouth, from Dennison, Iowa, was a freshman on Iowa’s 1958 Big Ten Championship team and played in the Hawkeyes’ 1959 Rose Bowl Championship game. He was one of 58 Hawkeyes to win a freshman numeral award.

Black, continuing the family tradition in Black and Gold, played in all 20 matches as a freshman in 2020-21 and recorded five double-digit kill performances.

In her sophomore season, Black competed in 39 sets, registering 46 kills on .330 hitting and nine digs.

Now, as a junior under first-year head coach Jim Barnes, Black has competed in 32 sets so far. She’s already exceeding her kills and digs from last season with 50 and 14, respectively.

“[Outside hitter Edina Schmidt] was out for a little bit, and Audrey has come in and played really well,” Barnes said. “She’s done a great job within her role.”

Black’s contribution on the court started picking up on Oct. 5 when Iowa forced No. 5 Purdue to five sets in West Lafayette. The Hawkeyes ultimately fell, 3-2, but Black played in all five sets and recorded eight kills on .350 hitting.

In Iowa’s five-set victory over Indiana on Oct. 10, Black recorded six kills and two digs.

Black’s positivity when she was on and off the court was integral to the bounce-back win over the Hoosiers, who swept the Hawkeyes in the teams’ first meeting on Sept. 28.

“I’m probably over-positive sometimes because I just don’t want us to shut down,” Black said.

On Oct. 14 inside Xtream Arena during Iowa’s 3-0 loss to No. 5 Wisconsin, Black recorded a season-high .412 hitting percentage with eight kills.

Despite Schmidt returning to the Hawkeyes’ lineup during Iowa’s hard-fought 3-2 loss versus No. 14 Penn State on Oct. 15, Black recorded eight more kills and a season-high three digs. It was the first time since 2000 that Iowa took Penn State to five sets.

RELATED: Iowa volleyball takes No. 14 Penn State to five sets, falls 3-2

“I think having the mentality about the team and not just me is important,” Black said. “I think me and my teammates have a strong culture of helping each other out, and it’s just helped me relax and get better throughout the season. I feel like everyone has my back and I have theirs.”

While Iowa is tied with Rutgers and Michigan State for last in the Big Ten at 1-7, the steady improvements under Barnes have been apparent in each match.

The Hawkeyes ranked 13th in the Big Ten last season in digs but have jumped to sixth in the conference this season with 13.90 digs per set. Iowa was held to a .194 and .171 hitting efficiency the last two seasons, respectively and the Hawkeyes have surpassed that mark this season hitting .212.

“I think just focusing on us and our side of the net has really helped us,” Black said.  “Coach always says to us, ‘They’re human too.’ I think that honestly helps so much because we all deserve to be here, and I think we have a lot to prove this year.”