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Iowa volleyball's Straumann develops as a go-to player

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | SEPTEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa defensive and serving specialist Allison Straumann rotated onto the court against Penn State last weekend when the Hawkeyes were down, 18-23.

Then, Iowa went on a four-point run.

When Iowa falls behind, it needs consistency on the floor — and Straumann has proven herself to be a reliable back-row player.

Straumann has only played in 12 sets this season, usually enters the game for about three rotations at a time, and plays only in the back row. But despite small amount of playing time, she has registered 12 digs in five matches.

Against Penn State, however, the junior played in 30 out of 39 plays in the third set because Iowa's passing had begun to break down.

"I go in the game whenever it's needed; I'm supposed to be coming in to be a consistent passer and an aggressive server, so I can come in and get those jobs done," Straumann said. "I do a pretty good job of picking up where someone else is lacking, which makes our team great because it gives us a lot of depth."

 

Straumann is a go-to player when the Hawkeyes need to smooth out their passing, but entering the action at a moment's notice can be challenging after spending most of the game on the bench.

"It's not easy to do what she does," assistant coach Ben Boldt said. "She's got to be mentally ready to go, coming right off the bench and be in game-mode right from that point on. You can't ease into it — you've got to get out there and make a difference right away."

Straumann communicates with the rest of the Hawkeyes on the bench to keep herself engaged in the game, cheering for her teammates and helping coach the players that rotate in more frequently. She watches her team's passers and tries to pick out the patterns of opposing hitters so she can be prepared to enter the game if she's needed.

When Straumann is called to rotate in, it's important that she's focused because there's a little pressure to prove herself, said fellow defensive specialist and non-starter Grace Burns.

"We get a lot fewer reps," Burns said. "We're only in the back, so when Allison goes in, she's only in for three rotations, and she has less of a chance to make her appearance on the court. She just focuses on passing; that's her one job, so she singles in on that to try to make the best of the time she is on the court."

The team is generally split into starters and non-starters in practice, with each group playing on its own side of the net during drills and scrimmages. When she enters the games, though, Straumann is usually playing alongside starters.

"The chemistry isn't off between us, it's just a little different, and I think that's what makes it helpful sometimes," Straumann said. "There's a little disconnect at times, but if you're engaged and focused and in tune with what the starters are doing and you get thrown in, you'll be right in the mix."

Straumann used to play as an outside hitter, but last spring she decided with the coaching staff that she could be a greater asset to the team playing in the back row. This season, Boldt said Straumann has already had an effect on Iowa's back line — despite not always knowing when she'll be called upon to enter a game.

"For the most part, she'll know if she's going in or not," Boldt said. "But the tricky part about her role — which Allison does very well with — is that you also never know when your number is going to be called."


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