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Volleyball hopeful for future

BY EVELYN LAU | DECEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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After tying for the best start in school history, the Iowa volleyball team lost much of its steam near the end of its season.

The Hawkeyes ended their 2009 campaign with a 3-0 loss to Indiana on Nov. 28 to finish 13-19 overall, 5-15 in the Big Ten.

In her second year, Iowa head coach Sharon Dingman saw improvement from the past. The Hawkeyes combined for 11 conference wins under Dingman in two seasons as opposed to nine wins combined during the previous four years, including a 1-19 record in conference play.

While Dingman still considers the season a success, inconsistency proved to be the biggest hurdle Iowa faced.

“We’ve had a great year,” she said after the Hawkeyes’ loss to Indiana last weekend. “We haven’t been able to get any momentum going with a win. We have not been good back-to-back this entire season. So clearly, that’s something we have to address in the off-season.”

Starting 6-0 after sweeping through the Loyola Invitation and Green Bay Classic on Aug. 28-29 and Sept. 4-5, the Hawkeyes seemed to be in good shape prior to their return home for the Hawkeye Challenge on Sept. 9-11.

But Iowa lost all three of its home matches before taking to the road again for the West Point Challenge on Sept. 18-20. The Hawkeyes went 2-1 in their final outing before starting conference play.

The Big Ten boasted five teams in the Top 25 at the start of the season, including back-to-back NCAA champion and top-ranked Penn State.

Starting the conference slate on the Big Ten Network at Wisconsin, Iowa won, 3-1, on Sept. 23. The Hawkeyes also won a thrilling five-set victory against the Badgers at home on Nov. 11 following a season-high five-game losing streak. It was the first sweep of the Wisconsin since 1994.

Under first-year assistant coach Ben Boldt, Iowa looked improved on that defensive side.

“He’s a great defensive coach,” sophomore middle blocker Mallory Husz said. “I think the more that we improve on our defense, the more we’re going to win, and that’s definitely going to carry out next year.”

A highlight of the season included Iowa’s first trip to No. 1 Penn State. While the Hawkeyes couldn’t end Penn State’s then-78 game winning streak, losing 3-1, they managed to end another streak.

Iowa became the first team to take a set against the Nittany Lions, ending their previous streak of 141-straight sets won during the regular season. It was also the first time Penn State had dropped a set since Nov. 24, 2007.

“That was just crazy because it was a milestone,” Husz said. “We were one of the first to do that in the regular season, and that really says something about our program.”

Also leading Iowa was senior libero Christina Meister, who finished second in the Big Ten in digs, averaging 4.26 per set.

Replacing Meister and senior outside hitter Megan Schipper, who ranks 11th all-time in kills at Iowa, won’t be an easy task. However, with four recruits signed for the 2010 season, the future looks bright for the Hawkeyes.

“We’re right where we need to be in the sense of moving our program up,” Husz said. “Knowing the competition we play day in and day out is only going to make us better.”


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