Volleyball overpowers No. 18 Michigan State

BY EVELYN LAU | OCTOBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team turned its anger into motivation on Sunday.

A mere 48 hours after pushing No. 8 Michigan to the brink in a five-set loss, the Hawkeyes (10-8, 2-4) returned to the court to take on No. 18 Michigan State (14-4, 2-4) in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

After allowing the Wolverines to rally for a win, the Hawkeyes overpowered the Spartans en route to a 3-0 sweep (25-14, 25-15, 25-19).

Iowa head coach Sharon Dingman said she felt frustration from the earlier loss played a role in the team’s mentality heading into the afternoon match.

“I think they were really mad,” the second-year coach said. “We probably let an opportunity slip away [against Michigan]. At some point, you’ve got to turn that anger you’re feeling right now into something positive, and I thought they did a tremendous job with that.”

As a team, Iowa hit .356 in the match and held Michigan State to a .129 attacking percentage. Senior Megan Schipper had 13 kills, junior Mara Hilgenberg had 36 assists, and senior Christina Meister added 15 digs.

After losing four-straight conference games, the Hawkeyes were ready to be on the winning side again. Team consistency was one of the things Iowa players said they needed to improve on.

“We really came out wanting to win this game,” Hilgenberg said. “We’re trying to be really consistent with our offense and defense, so that’s one thing we focused on.”

The Hawkeyes had a .424 attack percentage and held the Spartans to a minuscule .051 in taking the first set. Junior Aimee Huffman had six kills, Hilgenberg dished 12 assists, and Meister had 12 digs.

After taking an 11-3 lead, Iowa maintained its offensive assault, shutting down Michigan State. A kill by Huffman sealed the 1-0 set lead.

In the second set, the Hawkeyes managed to stay hot, hitting .414 as a team. Junior Katie Kennedy led the team with five kills, Hilgenberg added 12 assists, and Schipper had three digs.

Facing a 18-9 Hawkeye advantage, the Spartans tried to rally but were denied as a kill by Schipper gave Iowa a 2-0 lead on the match.

In the decisive third set, Michigan State showed signs of life as the two teams traded points. Down 20-18, the Spartans called a time-out.

However, a 5-1 Iowa run ended the set.

“Today’s effort was totally an all-out team effort,” Schipper said. “Everybody individually did her job, and we just came together as a team and were able to do the big things during the big times.”

The win might come as a little bit of surprise to those around the Big Ten. But the Hawkeyes say they have what it takes to hang with the country’s best as proven by their victory.

“We go into every match thinking we’re going to give ourselves an opportunity to win,” Dingman said. “I don’t think we ever think we can’t compete with somebody in the Big Ten and that’s one nice thing about this team. We do have that kind of confidence but winning of those against a Big Ten ranked opponent is nice.”

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