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Iowa volleyball sweeps tournament

BY BEN WOLFSON | SEPTEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Alex Lovell wasn’t the only Iowa volleyball player with something to prove against her hometown team, Oakland (Mich.).

The entire team proved on Sept. 10 that it will not simply roll over and give up; instead, the Hawkeyes are more than willing to scrap and tussle through five sets to walk away with a win.

The Hawkeyes (6-3) hosted the Iowa Invitational this past weekend and walked away with the title. After two quick three-set wins against Chicago State (25-15, 25-11, 25-18) and Loyola (25-19, 25-20, 25-17) on Sept. 10, the Black and Gold found themselves fighting for every single point in five sets against Oakland.

In the up-and-down struggle, Iowa came away with the win, (17-25, 25-22, 25-27, 25-15, 15-8).

In the first three sets against the Golden Grizzlies, Iowa looked frantic and seemed to be trying to keep the ball alive instead of setting up and executing plays. Oakland’s flawless passing and strong serving caused the Hawkeyes to scramble over the floor to return each attack.

“We kind of got out of ourselves and tried playing their game a little bit,” senior right side Tiffany Nilges said. “We just told each other to settle down, play our game, [and] do what we know how to do — and we just fought our way back.”

Midway through the fourth set, Iowa took charge and the momentum swung in the Hawkeyes’ favor. After trailing Oakland for the entire set (and behind in the match 2-1), back-to-back kills from Nilges tied the set, 10-10.

Another kill from Lovell lifted the Hawkeyes ahead of the Golden Grizzlies, and Iowa remained in the lead until it claimed the victory after its 15th point of the fifth set.

Oakland head coach Rob Beam said he thought Iowa’s ability to suddenly change the momentum accounted for the win.

“That was kind of the difference as we went along in the match — we were trying to catch up to the changes that they were making instead of us continuing to dictate the change in play,” he said.

Nilges registered 16 kills against Oakland to boost her weekend total to 30, and she was named All-tournament MVP. Lovell was also named to the all-tournament team. She tallied 33 kills in the tournament, including 21 kills in the third match to become the first Hawkeye to break 20 kills in a single game since 2009.

In addition to ending the weekend with three victories, head coach Sharon Dingman said she was thrilled to see her team develop more effective strategies and make smarter plays — changes that will benefit the team in the long run.

Dingman said she was particularly proud of Nilges, a first-time starter this weekend, for earning her spot in the starting lineup and becoming “a go-to player” for setter Nikki Dailey.

In addition to Nilges’ domination, Lovell continued to shine on the court.

“She’s going to be really good,” Dingman said. “What we saw tonight was her start to mature a little bit. Twenty kills is great, but I’m most excited about the maturity she showed tonight in hitting shots and her shot selection.”


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