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Volleyball falls to Ohio State in Walters' final match

BY IAN MARTIN | NOVEMBER 29, 2010 7:20 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team's last match of the season against Ohio State on Nov. 27 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was an appropriate swan song considering the team's season. It was hard-fought against a good team, led by the Hawkeyes' only senior and then another seemingly random player stepping up.

The Hawkeyes (7-22, 2-14) lost (25-16, 25-23, 19-25, 25-18) to the Buckeyes (22-11, 10-10) in a disappointing end to a season that didn't live up to expectations.

The star for a day was freshman setter Nikki Dailey, who has begun to deliver on her immense promise — she even tallied five kills at a position that usually has none.

Teammates said Dailey played maybe her best match of the season on its final night.

"She took control of the match," junior outside hitter Megan Eskew said. "You could see it in the plays she was running and her set choices."

While the youth movement will continue in the off-season, the team was focused on the oldest player on the squad.

Players were all smiles after the game because they were celebrating their last match with middle blocker Becky Walters, the team's only senior.

The support was immense for Walters, from the attire of the team and signs hung around the arena to players' actions following the game.

First, all the Hawkeyes wore glitter headbands for the match — something Walters has done throughout her career.

Then, after a match in which she tallied four aces, including three in a row at one point to add to her season total of 41 — an Iowa single-season record — Walters was recognized and given flowers by her team. She cried in her mother's arms as she fully grasped that her career was coming to an end.

"It's obvious how much her teammates love her," head coach Sharon Dingman said.

The head coach described the captain as someone who couldn't have done more to help the program, even though the team's success wasn't great during the Parkersburg, Iowa, native's tenure.

"I know Becky, in a couple years from now, when we're in the NCAA Tournament and we're a top-25 team, is going to look back and understand the part that she played in that even though she won't be wearing a uniform," Dingman said.

Fans at the game chanted "Num-ber 10" every time Walters served during the match, and many stayed after to take a picture or get an autograph with the always-kind Hawkeye for the last time.

Giving her final postgame interview of her career, she stood about 30 rows above the floor, on the concourse, still teary-eyed.

"I'll probably still be hanging out [in Carver-Hawkeye Arena] all the time," she said jokingly. "I'm going to have an identity crisis for sure."

And while her career is now done, the always unselfish Walters said she was maybe more concerned about her parents' plans than hers. With her mother and father making the two-hour drive for every game, it seems the whole Walters family had a career come to an end.

"I think they're probably going to have an identity crisis, too," she said. "They have no more kids in the family to go watch."


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