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Volleyball looks to end losing streak

BY EVELYN LAU | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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Last month, the Iowa volleyball team became the first squad this season to take a set from defending back-to-back national champion Penn State.

The Hawkeyes ended the Nittany Lions’ 141-consecutive sets winning streak during an away match on Oct. 2. Despite losing in four sets, it was still a big step forward for an Iowa program that has never beaten Penn State in its history.

“Our players, you ask them who do they most look forward to playing, and it’s always Penn State,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “Our players want to play against the best, and we’ll play well. We did the last time we played them.”

Iowa (11-13, 3-9) will host Ohio State (18-7, 6-6) and No. 1 Penn State (24-0, 12-0) this weekend in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Hawkeyes are aware of their underdog status. However, the players also believe they are capable of playing with any team, as long as they stay confident.

“Anytime you’re going against a national defending champion, a top-ranked team, it’s really more about yourself and what you can do and focus on,” senior libero Christina Meister said. “They have a lot of weapons, that’s why they’re No. 1. We need to just focus on what we do well and doing it well when we play them.”

Meister anchors a defense that sits atop the Big Ten in digs, averaging 15.48. She also ranks second in the conference, averaging 4.42 digs per set.

Ohio State will be led by junior outside hitter Katie Dull, who ranks fourth in the Big in kills (3.91 per set). The Hawkeyes haven’t defeated the Buckeyes at home since 1987. For Penn State, outside hitter and All-American Megan Hodge will try to help the Nittany Lions continue their 88-match win streak — the fourth longest in NCAA history.

The senior also ranks first in the Big Ten with 4.80 kills per set.

Despite being a smaller team, the Hawkeyes plan to use their defense to counter the offensive weapons for both opposing teams.

“Our staple all year has been our defense,” Dingman said. “It has created success for us this entire year. … But at the same time, we have to become more efficient offensively.”

Iowa is in the midst of a three-game losing streak after dropping matches at Michigan State and No. 15 Michigan on Oct. 30 and 31.

For the Hawkeyes, they hope to finally put together a consistent game.

“I think it’s just very important for us to be consistent and for our serving and passing game to be on,” senior outside hitter Megan Schipper said. “We struggled with that a little bit with that last weekend. So we focus on that, and we get that together this week, and just play with a lot of intensity at home. That’s going to be the key to winning both matches.”

Earlier this season, Iowa had its second largest crowd in history with 2,111 fans during a match against then-No. 11 Iowa State. The Hawkeyes would appreciate a similar scenario with this weekend’s matches.

“I would love to see that many people,” Meister said. “It’s always nice to have a crowd that’s rowdy and cheering for you, which helps create home-court advantage. It’s when you have your fans around you and everyone cheering for you.”


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