Iowa volleyball comes from behind to defeat Michigan in five-set thriller

Freshman outside hitter Nia Washington led the Hawkeyes with a career-high 16 kills.


Isabella Cervantes

Iowa outside hitter Nia Washington prepares for North Florida’s serve during a volleyball game between Iowa and North Florida at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. Washington had one kill.The Hawkeyes defeated the Ospreys 3-0.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

The Iowa volleyball team came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Michigan in a five-set thriller at Xtream Arena on Wednesday to close out the Hawkeyes’ home slate. 

Iowa is now 3-16 in the Big Ten and 9-21 overall with one match remaining this season.

“I think the [crowd] really loved the teamwork they saw tonight,” head coach Jim Barnes said. “We were down, but we pulled together and we turned it around. It’s just another step towards becoming the program we want to be.”

How it happened 

Michigan dominated Iowa in the first set, 25-9. The Hawkeyes had a negative hitting percentage in the first set with four kills and nine errors. The Wolverines hit .348 with 12 kills.

Senior libero Mari Hinkle, who leads Iowa with 405 digs and ranks sixth in the conference with 4.01 digs per set, did not play against Michigan due to injury. Redshirt freshman Sydney Dennis started at libero and recorded a career-high 23 digs.

“Sydney played like a vet,” Barnes said. “I’m so proud of her and you can see her adapting so quickly. She’s a young player and she’s going to do some big things for us.”

The second set started in favor of the Wolverines as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and the Hawkeyes could not close the gap. Michigan won the second set, 25-19, despite Iowa improving its hitting percentage to .250 with 17 kills. 

Barnes switched things up in the third set, bringing sophomore outside hitter Toyosi Onabanjo to the middle to block Michigan senior Jess Robinson, who ranks second in the Big Ten with a .438 hitting percentage. Robinson finished the match hitting .333. 

The change worked in Iowa’s favor, as Onabanjo opened up the third set with a block to give Iowa its first lead of the match. Michigan responded with three consecutive points to take back the advantage.

But, in her last home game as a Hawkeye, fifth-year senior middle hitter Amiya Jones answered with three straight kills to give Iowa the boost it needed. The Hawkeyes were in control the rest of the set en route to a 25-18 victory.

“After those first two sets, I was on the edge of my seat,” Jones said.  “But, we got a fire under our butts and we killed it. I’m just so proud of us and this was such a great way to end our last home game.”


Iowa got down by as much as six late in the fourth set before kills by Onabanjo and outside hitter Addie VanderWeide helped cut the Wolverine lead to three. Michigan had two straight match points, but the Hawkeyes scored four consecutive points as a kill by setter Bailey Ortega sealed the set for Iowa, 26-24. 

Iowa jumped out to an 8-5 lead in the fifth set to force a Michigan timeout. The Wolverines went on a 4-0 run to knot it at 13 apiece, but the Hawkeyes scored the next two to win the set and complete the comeback. 

Freshman outside hitter Nia Washington — a three-time Louisiana state champion and two-time state championship MVP selection — led the Iowa offense with a career-high 16 kills, 37 attempts, and .216 hitting percentage. 

“I wanted to lay it all out on the line, and I really thank my coaches for giving me the opportunity and my parents for instilling fearlessness in me,” Washington said. “ I knew we were going to win that game, I felt it in me.”

Jones also recorded 16 kills hitting .481  followed by senior outside hitter Edina Schmidt with 11 kills on .348 hitting. 

Up next

Iowa closes out the 2022-23 season against Michigan State on Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. in East Lansing, Michigan. The game will be streamed on BTN+.

“We just have to stay with the same mindset and go in for the kill [on Saturday],” Washington said. “We don’t have anything to lose.”

Facebook Comments