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Iowa volleyball needs life leaders

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | OCTOBER 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Despite Iowa volleyball's 0-4 Big Ten record, seniors Mallory Husz and Megan Eskew have done well.

But having the seniors play well isn't enough.

Iowa lost, 3-0, to Michigan on Sept. 30 and by the same score to Michigan State on Oct. 1. The two seniors tallied 33 kills in those games — more than 62 percent of the entire team's total.

"We need to decide that we don't want to get pushed around anymore," Dingman said in a release after losing to the Spartans. "[Husz] always competes hard, but we need to see it from the entire lineup, not just from the seniors."

The Hawkeyes (10-7 overall) and Wolverines were tied nine times, as Iowa repeatedly made up lost points. Michigan led 23-20, near the end of the first set, but two-straight kills from senior Tiffany Nilges kept Iowa alive a little longer.

In the second set, two Husz blocks and a kill from Eskew gave the Hawkeyes an early 8-6 lead — but that fell apart when the rest of the team couldn't maintain the seniors' momentum.

Sophomore setter Nikki Dailey sees every kill the seniors take, and is said she's affected by their "contagious" eagerness.

"Some of the seniors really take it upon themselves when we need to get a point," Dailey said. "When we're struggling, we need someone to step up and say, 'Give me the ball.' I've seen that from the seniors."

Although the seniors lead by example on the court, they said they're now focusing on helping the freshmen adjust to the rigors of the Big Ten schedule.

Dingman said one of the reasons the underclassmen performed poorly in Michigan was because they don't know how to handle traveling and road trips.

"Being a leader is a lot of information-sharing, just as much as it's about how they perform on the court," she said. "We hope our leaders can help by what they say in the locker room, what they say on the sidelines, when they're watching film, when they're in the hotel."

There's a difference between playing well and being a good leader. While the Hawkeye seniors have their volleyball skills under control, they're now trying to get the whole team's performance up to par by helping the underclassmen focus.

"Doing well and accomplishing your job doesn't necessarily mean you're benefiting the team the most you can," Husz said. "Being a leader is your ability to help all of those around you. Volleyball is a team sport, so we need leaders rather than statistical excellence."

The Hawkeyes are now tied with Indiana for last place in the Big Ten. Husz said she feels responsible for some of that, despite tallying 15 kills in the last three games.

"I don't attribute playing well unless the team wins," Husz said. "A leader has to take responsibility for [a team's failure]. If we lose, that means there was something that I didn't do to help the team and I should have done more."

Husz said she's going to focus more on using every opportunity she can to help the young Hawkeye team grow.

"I remember there was one time when Alex Lovell was struggling a little bit in practice," Husz said. "I just looked at her and took a deep breath. She did it with me, and then she nodded.

"We have to remember that that's our job as seniors — to find some way to tell them, 'I have confidence in you. I know you can do it.' "


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