Iowa volleyball 2023 commit Olivia Lombardi stays in-state, emphasizes trust under Jim Barnes’ staff.

The libero is one of six Iowa natives on the 2023-24 roster and values the family-like atmosphere the Hawkeyes have built.


Contributed photo of Olivia Lombardi.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

Iowa volleyball 2023 commit Olivia Lombardi knew from the first day she visited Iowa City that it was going to be hard to turn down the Hawkeyes. 

The libero committed to Iowa in July 2021 under former Hawkeye head coach Vicki Brown, who was later fired in November. 

But the trust and camaraderie that newly hired head coach Jim Barnes, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Yale, and assistant coach Aubrey Becker built around the volleyball program was strong enough to keep her committed. 

“The thing that really hooked me about Iowa was the environment they had created,” Lombardi said of Iowa’s coaching staff. “Volleyball is so fun and enjoyable, but if you don’t have that family or friendship feeling, you will never succeed. You have to trust the person next to you, and when I visited Iowa and watched the girls play, that was something I felt and saw.”

When Barnes, Yale, and Becker arrived in Iowa City, they made it a priority to meet and watch the players that previously committed under Brown. 

Lombardi and other 2023 recruits Kaia Mateo and Alyssa Worden originally committed to Brown’s Hawkeye volleyball team. And they stayed committed to the Hawkeyes after meeting with Barnes and his coaching staff.

“Change in something as big as coaching can be huge,” Lombardi said. “Trust is a huge thing for many athletes, and if you don’t have that trust, you can’t strive. Coach Barnes has done a great job of building that trust. He is such a sweet man and is pushing his athletes to be the best they can.” 

Lombardi started her prep volleyball career at Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. She made the Tigers’ varsity volleyball squad as a freshman and earned second-team All-State in her sophomore season. 

She then transferred to Des Moines Christian, where she was named a two-year team captain and earned first-team All-State her senior season. Lombardi helped lead the Lions to their first-ever volleyball state semifinal match and was crowned a soccer state champion in 2022. 

When watching Lombardi at club practice and the Iowa high school regionals tournament in spring 2022, one thing that stood out to Iowa’s coaching staff was her energy and athleticism.

“She’s got high energy, a big personality to her, and that leads into her being a hard-worker, both on and off the court,” Yale told The Daily Iowan on Feb. 1. “She wants to be great. She wants to succeed. She’s got the Iowa mentality.”

Some of Lombardi’s athleticism can be attributed to genetics, as her mother Kari Lombardi played volleyball at Minnesota State-Mankato, and her father Tony Lombardi played football at Arizona State.

Her two older brothers, Rocky Lombardi and Beau Lombardi, were star football players at Valley High School, and both went on to play in college. Her older sister Payton Lombardi played collegiate volleyball at Tennessee Tech, and her younger sister and 2024 graduate Gabby Lombardi currently plays prep volleyball at Des Moines Christian. 

Olivia Lombardi will join three other 2023 commits in the summer, including Burlington, Iowa, product and outside hitter Gabby Deery. The additions of Olivia Lombardi and Deery make six Iowa natives on the Hawkeyes’ 2023-24 roster. 

RELATED: 2023 commit Gabby Deery bringing versatility to Iowa volleyball 

Yale said in-state athlete recruitment is pivotal in rebuilding Iowa’s volleyball program, which has not seen a winning conference season in over two decades. The Hawkeyes want to elevate their play and chances of title contention, and that starts with getting athletes that grew up in Iowa. 

 “We know there’s great volleyball talent here in the state, and we want to bring them here and not lose them to other places,” Yale said. “And obviously, for us, that started with the girls that were previously committed here — they wanted to be here.”

With the departure of senior libero Mari Hinkle, who ended last season ninth in the Big Ten with 4.01 digs per set, it will be up to Olivia Lombardi and liberos Sydney Dennis, Harlei Cole, and Amanda Darling to take over the back row in 2023. 

“I have met most, but not all of the girls, and I absolutely adore them. I can tell I have lifelong friends awaiting me,” Olivia Lombardi said. “There are many girls there that I look up to. I watch the way they practice and play and interact with their community, and I want to be just like them. I couldn’t find a bad thing to say about Iowa’s staff and players, they are a great group of people, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

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