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Volleyball falls to Northwestern

BY IAN MARTIN | NOVEMBER 01, 2010 7:15 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team keeps taking one step forward, then two steps back.

Oct. 30 saw another three-set sweep, this time at home to No. 24 Northwestern. The Hawkeyes (6-15, 1-11 Big Ten) had no answer for the Wildcats’ (16-6, 6-5) system in the 25-16, 25-23, 25-19 loss.

It has been a season of struggles for Iowa, and Oct. 30 was no different — the team’s troubles in serving and passing were exposed by an experienced opponent.

“It was serve-receive and serving,” Iowa head coach Sharon Dingman said. “There was just a fundamental breakdown.”

Offensively, Iowa showed a lot of improvement with 32 team kills, just five shy of Northwestern’s total. But once again, there were just too many errors — mental and statistical — for the Hawkeyes to overcome.

The game wasn’t as large of a regression as some, but it certainly wasn’t much of an improvement.

Iowa continues to search for a win, now in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. But more importantly, the team continues to search for an attainable, but helpful, goal to achieve.

With the squad now officially eliminated from postseason contention, the focus for Iowa has shifted.

Instead of goals that are easily written down, such as the initial goal of making the NCAA Tournament, attitudes have now turned to concepts.

Among others, there’s the idea of being competitive in back-to-back contests and having fun on the court. Players feel that, despite the result against Northwestern, the team neared these aims.

“We’ve been playing a lot better against our opponents,” junior Mallory Husz said. “If you look at our losses, we’re not losing by a lot of points. And we’re playing against some of the top teams in the nation.”

But if the team wants to win, and not just be competitive in the best volleyball conference in the country, then at least one match will need to see the mental and fundamental aspects mesh.

The Wildcats certainly used their skills in defeating Iowa, but the Hawkeyes again got down on themselves and let their mistakes build.

“That was the last thing I expected from this team tonight,” Dingman said. “To just have so many people not locked in.”

This lack of focus, and the number of mistakes the team makes may arise because the team doesn’t, well, want to make mistakes.

Senior captain Becky Walters, who now enters her last month as an NCAA volleyball player, has been around a lot of teams on which the members have gotten down on themselves. But this particular squad is more afraid of hitting the ball out of bounds.

In practice, players unleash shots with fury and play like a top-25 team, Walters said. But something changes as soon as the real match begins.

With just eight games left and now nothing really on the table to play for, the team, if nothing else, has identified what it needs to work on.

“It’s a lot of mentality,” Walters said. “We’re scared to go for it like we do in practice. We’re just too consumed by our mistakes.”


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