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Volleyball looks to build winning streak

BY EVELYN LAU | NOVEMBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Iowa volleyball hasn’t beaten Minnesota in 28 tries.

However, after ending a season-high five-game losing skid and sweeping their season series against Wisconsin for the first time in 15 years, the Hawkeyes have hope. They will also try to begin a new streak by winning consecutive matches for the first time since late September.

Iowa (12-15, 4-11) will host No. 13 Minnesota (19-7, 10-4) in Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 7 p.m. today.

The Hawkeyes will probably be without junior starting middle blocker Aimee Huffman, who has mono. The status of junior setter Mara Hilgenberg is also quite questionable — she has H1N1 and pneumonia.

Losing the two players has been a setback, but with younger players, such as sophomores Paige Stevens, Mallory Husz, and junior Katie Kennedy, getting an opportunity, Iowa head coach Sharon Dingman said she believes her team has done a good job.

“Mallory adds a dimension that’s really good for our team,” the coach said. “She’s fast. She follow directions very, very well. She’s really getting a good understanding of the game. And Katie Kennedy, she hasn’t played right side for a couple of years and what a tremendous job stepping for Aimee. Paige was very, very good. … This is an opportunity she’s been waiting for, and she seized it.”

The Hawkeyes are coming off a five-set (19-25, 25-17, 25-16, 20-25, 15-8) victory against Wisconsin in a game broadcast on the Big Ten Network on Wednesday.

Senior outside Megan Schipper had a season-high 19 kills, Stevens — in her first career start — dished out 52 assists, and senior libero Christina Meister added 30 digs in the win.

Working together, while separately improving on their own game, proved to be one key to success for the Hawkeyes against Wisconsin.

“I think we really showed consistency,” Husz said after the match. “Especially after the first game. Each one of us looked at each other and said, ‘We need to improve individually,’ and I think consistently we did so — as individuals and as a team.”

Iowa’s ability to block also aided the team.

In the victory, Iowa out-blocked Wisconsin, 16.5-7. Junior middle blocker Becky Walters ranks 10th in the Big Ten, averaging 1.01 per set.

The Hawkeyes rank third in the conference in digs, averaging 15.11 per set, and Meister is tied for first in the category with 4.48 per set.

The Golden Gophers, in the midst of a two-match winning streak, are led by junior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer.

She leads the team with 275 kills and 120 blocks. She also ranks third in hitting percentage in the Big Ten with .411 and is fifth in blocks with 1.35 per set.

Iowa is 12-54 in the all-time series against Minnesota. However, Meister said she believed defense would be crucial in capturing a win.

“I think that’s one of the things we have to take away [from Wednesday’s win],” Meister said. “We’re a great defensive team, so just make them play and let our defense go to work. One of the things we really focused on was making every ball better for the hitters and giving them a chance.”


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