Volleyball looks for first home victory of season against No. 8 Michigan

BY EVELYN LAU | OCTOBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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Aimee Huffman was only a freshman when the Iowa volleyball team defeated then-ranked No. 11 Michigan in stunning fashion.

As a member of the squad that upset the Wolverines in five sets at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 2007, a more experienced Huffman believes similar success is possible. She said the Hawkeyes’ key to victory lies in confidence and teamwork.

“We just need to come out, and play confidently, and play the game that we know we can,” she said. “We work hard in practice every day. We know the level of play we’re capable of and just kind of being confident in that and playing together as a team.”

Iowa (9-7, 1-3) will take on No. 8 Michigan (15-2, 3-1) in its Big Ten home-opener in Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 7 p.m. today. The Hawkeyes will also face No. 18 Michigan State (14-2, 2-2) on at 1 p.m. Oct. 11.

The Hawkeyes have lost their last three matches against the Wolverines and are 23-28 all-time against the program.

In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Hawkeyes would like to believe there is an extra advantage to once again play on their own home court after playing on the road for the past three weeks.

“You get to play on the court you practice on every day. You get to play in front of your fans, and obviously not traveling will just be good,” Iowa head coach Sharon Dingman said. “We’ve been on the road for three weekends, so it’s just going to be nice to just have our own routine.”

Last weekend, Iowa took on defending national championships and No. 1 Penn State on Oct. 2 at State College, Pa. Despite dropping the match in four sets (25-16, 25-10, 24-26, 25-18), the Hawkeyes were able to end the Nittany Lions streak of 141-consecutive regular-season sets won.

However, the next night, Ohio State swept Iowa in three sets (25-17, 25-20, 25-22) following a lackluster effort in Columbus, Ohio.

“When we played Ohio State, I don’t think we worked near as hard as we worked every single day in practice and when we compete,” Dingman said. “I think we lost a little bit of our work ethic in that match. That was probably the most disappointing thing, that as much of the outcome because you hate to lose. But it was just the way we lost, it was pretty disappointing.”

The Hawkeyes have yet to win a match in Carver this season, but the team will look to its defense. Iowa ranks second in the Big Ten in digs behind Michigan with 15.71 per game, while senior libero Christina Meister leads the conference, averaging 4.48 per set.

Michigan will try to rebound after suffering its first conference loss in a five-set upset by No. 12 Illinois on Oct. 3.

The Hawkeyes are hoping for similar success. Junior setter Mara Hilgenberg said the challenge of a top team just adds to the allure of the matchup.

“There’s no pressure,” she said. “I mean, we’re excited to play them. We love to play teams that are ranked so we can try to beat the really good teams in the Big Ten.”

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