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Iowa volleyball refuses to settle

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team will travel to Michigan this weekend to challenge the No. 17 Wolverines tonight and Michigan State on Saturday. The Hawkeyes (10-5) are in search of a victory — a victory that comes in the shape of a "W" instead of a pat on the back.

At the beginning of the season, head coach Sharon Dingman said she would rather play poorly and win than play well and lose. Assistant coaches Ben Boldt and Jason Allen said the opposite, though. But now, 15 games into the season and with a 0-2 Big Ten record, the Hawkeyes say they agree there's a difference between settling for a loss and going for a win.

In other words, the Iowa volleyball team is done with moral victories.

The Hawkeyes opened their conference season against Ohio State on Sept. 23 and took the first set from the Buckeyes, but Iowa fell apart after that and lost the next three sets and the match.

"I'm really disappointed," Dingman said after the game. "We need to think about winning. There's nothing good about this. We got out-dug, out-killed, out-blocked … We have to have the mentality that we're going to go at a team."

Iowa took on Penn State on Sept. 24 and lost in three sets, but the Hawks finished within two points of the then-No. 5 Nittany Lions in the first two sets. Dingman said her team played well against the four-time defending national champions.

But that still wasn't enough, she said. The Hawkeyes have their eyes on the NCAA Tournament and need to finish with at least a .500 record to qualify, so they're done taking small victories out of losses.

"I think we just realize how important every single game is — and the win is — to get to the NCAA Tournament," senior Mallory Husz said. "We can't be satisfied with, 'Oh, we played well against Penn State.' No.

"We need to beat Penn State."

Boldt said that the team is "antsy" and "hungry for a win." As expected, the Hawkeyes agree that they want to win — but the coaches disagree on what exactly counts as a victory.

"I don't understand anything other than winning, so I can't speak on playing well and losing,"

Dingman said. "You can take away a lot of positive things about the way we compete. I like the way we've competed and the maturity we've shown. I can't dismiss that, but if I had to choose, I'd choose winning."

But Boldt disagrees.

"I'd still like to see us play well and lose, and I'm going to stick by that," he said. "What that means to me is that we're getting better overall as a program, and that's the base. That's the building block we need to establish before we can pull off some easy wins when we play poorly."

The only way the whole team will be satisfied, Husz said, is if the Hawkeyes play well and win this weekend.

"It is a really high [expectation], especially if you look at our past program," the senior said, referring to Iowa's 10-straight losing seasons. "We're not a top-half team in the Big Ten; in order to be satisfied and get where we want to go, we're going to have to play well every single night and win."


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