Volleyball’s Stevens switches role


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Before every Iowa volleyball game, student coach Paige Stevens reads an inspirational quotation or story to the team. During every match, she sits on the sideline scribbling notes and keeping stats.

During a team huddle, she wraps her arms around the shoulders of her former teammates.

But once the time-out is over, she leaves the court and returns to the sideline.

Stevens played volleyball for the Hawkeyes for three years. A hip injury kept her off the court at the beginning of her senior year, but instead of walking away from the team, she decided to switch her role from setter to student coach.

In October 2010, Stevens started feeling a pinching pain in her hip. After the pain progressed to daily suffering, she visited doctors and was diagnosed with a bone spur that caused a torn labrum hip impingement — her hips were about five degrees out of alignment, and her bones were directly grinding on each other.

Stevens had surgery in early March, and after four months of rehab, she was released to play with the team during this summer’s preseason. But after about three weeks of training, she said, she knew she couldn’t handle the pain in her still-recovering hip.

“I’ve invested a lot of time in this program, and the girls have become my family,” she said. “It would just be devastating to walk away and be completely done with sports forever. I’m thankful I can still be here and live through the winning and the losing and everything that comes along with sports, but not deal with the daily pain.”

She stepped seamlessly into her responsibility as a coach. As the Hawkeyes’ primary setter last year, she has helped sophomore Nikki Dailey adjust to playing the position full-time. She keeps stats about where Dailey sets during a game and whether the maneuver was successful, and coaches Dailey one-on-one during time-outs and intermissions.

As a coach who has played college volleyball recently, Stevens has an insight into the game that the rest of the coaching staff lacks.

“I have every confidence that Paige is going to handle that role very professionally,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “If there are things with the team, I think she’ll be a good teammate. If there’s something she hears [the coaching staff say], I think she’ll be a great coach … This was a good decision for Paige in the long run and a good decision for our team in the short run.”

Fellow senior Mallory Husz injured her shoulder around the same time as Stevens had surgery, and the pair battled through rehab together and were cleared to play during preseason.

“The worst part was to watch our teammates be a team and play together, and we were sitting on the sideline shagging balls,” Husz said. “It takes a lot to sit there and still watch your team succeed, knowing that you could still be on that team. For her to stay with the team and endure all this when she could have cut her ties is just awesome.

“It takes a very special athlete to be strong enough to do that.”

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