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Iowa volleyball serves in New York

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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After committing 25 service errors in 11 sets in the Iowa Invitational last weekend, the Iowa volleyball team spent more time than usual this week focusing on serving.

In their last four nonconference games this weekend, the Hawkeyes (6-3) hope to improve their serves before Big Ten play begins.

The Hawkeyes will be in New York City to compete in the Columbia Invitational and will challenge St. Francis (N.Y.) at 9 a.m. today and Columbia at 6:30 p.m. The team will then take on Binghamton at 9 a.m. Saturday and St. John's at 1:30 p.m.

Iowa has committed 88 service errors in 36 sets through nine games, averaging about 2.5 service errors per set.

"We just want to serve tough," said Jason Allen, the assistant coach who focuses on serving.

Serving tough means the Hawkeyes want to use their serve to challenge the opposing team by forcing it "out of system." If Iowa can serve in a way that forces the team on the other side of the net to react in a certain way, the opposition's attack is predictable and easy to return.

But serving more aggressively means the Black and Gold will have to take more risks with the serve.

"I need to work on pressure situations and just getting the serve in," freshman Emily Yanny said. "But at the same time, I know I need to serve aggressively. If I'm making an error but serving tougher, it's not that bad. It's a hard balance."

To practice achieving this balance, the Hawkeyes have been devoting more practice time to serving this week, after an off-season when focusing on that aspect wasn't a usual occurrence.

Allen described a type of serving drill as the Hawkeyes playing six-on-six with the team's starters always serving on one side of the net and the non-starters returning on the other side. A service ace earns the starters a point while they try to win six points off 10 serves.

"Working on serving specifically has been nice," Yanny said. "It's hard to focus on a ton of different things at once for me. When we break it down, it's easier to get the reps and really just get the moves down and in my head."

In addition to preparing physically, the Hawkeyes are also working on their mental strength to help improve their serving this weekend.

"Serving is a big mental game; you have to be real mentally tough. It's just you and the ball," Allen said. "Our mental preparation and focus during the week plays a lot into how well we serve and how much we miss — or don't miss — the court."

Head coach Sharon Dingman said she doesn't believe Iowa's serving is necessarily a problem area. Instead, she views serving as an aspect of the game the Hawks are capable of focusing on to improve their performance as a whole for Big Ten play, which will begin Sept. 23.

"We want to develop the mentality that every serve is going to score us a point," Dingman said. "We're not just initiating play when we serve; sometimes, I feel like that's still the mentality that we have. We're working on it."


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