Volleyball hunts for starting lineup

BY EVELYN LAU | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

Coming out to the “Iowa Fight Song,” the Hawkeye volleyball team made this season’s début on Aug. 22 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Showcasing their skills during the annual Black and Gold scrimmage, the players had a chance to tune up before heading to Chicago, where the team will open its season at the Loyola Invitational, which begins on Friday. The exhibition match also allowed second-year head coach Sharon Dingman to get a better view of where the team stands nearing the start of the season.

“We’re still searching for the right lineup,” she said. “This is probably as late as it’s been, going into a season, that we still don’t know what our lineup is going to be, so we hope that some of the questions [were] answered tonight in a different environment other than practice.”

The players were divided into two teams and played a full five sets, with the Gold team eventually emerging victorious, unofficially. However, players changed sides throughout the game, and new assistant coach Ben Boldt joined in on the action.

Juniors Samantha Brannigan and Aimee Huffman put on a strong showing, as did freshmen Jordanne LeTourneau and Emma Krieger Kittle, despite the nerves that generally accompany newcomers.

“It was so exciting just running out to the big fight song. My heart was beating so fast,” said Krieger Kittle, an Iowa City native. “It’s still really surreal. It’s like we just got out of preseason, and now we’re actually playing and putting on the jersey.”

Despite looking sharp in some aspects, the Hawks felt there were opportunities for improvement.

“When people needed to step up, they stepped up, and they made the plays they needed to. When a team was down, they did a good job of coming back and not letting that affect them for too long,” senior defensive specialist and setter Christina Meister said. “But we definitely have a lot to work on. We’ve been working on a lot of serves during practice. We definitely need to keep working on that. It just wasn’t top notch tonight. Maybe blocking a little bit, a lot of defensive stuff because we’re a smaller team so defense is going to be very important for us.”

Dingman also saw some things that could have been improved during the scrimmage, including offensive sets.

“I was probably most disappointed in our serving and passing game. We didn’t serve near as well as I think we’re capable of serving,” she said. “I think we just have to step up our passing. We are not built where we can set our outsides 50, 60, 70 balls a match, so we’ve got to be able to get our middles involved.”

The Hawkeyes have focused on having more of a killer instinct on the court. Senior captain and outside hitter Megan Schipper, who started all 32 matches last season, thought the team was heading in the right direction.

“One of our big things right now that we’re talking about as a team is just the value of winning,” she said. “We have a lot of support for each other and we want each other to do well but in the end, we need to understand the value of the ‘W.’ So that’s the biggest thing we’re focusing on right now — going for the win. Going for the kill.”

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