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Iowa volleyball first Hawkeye team to challenge Cornhuskers

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | OCTOBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team practiced in Iowa City for only one day after returning from Wisconsin on Sunday before the hitting the road again. Iowa traveled to Lincoln, Neb., and it will become the first Hawk sports team to challenge the Cornhuskers this season.

The fourth-ranked Huskers (15-1, 8-0 Big Ten), are ranked No. 2 in rating percentage index; Iowa (11-10, 1-7) falls in at No. 111.

Iowa played Minnesota last week and lost, 3-0, in a quick slaughter. Nebraska also challenged the Golden Gophers last week, and came out on top, 3-2.

"We all know that [at Nebraska, it's] going to be harder for us to win than most other games," senior Mallory Husz said. "We're preparing pretty much the same way as we do for everyone, but realizing that it's going to be a long night. We're not going to beat them in three sets. It's going to be a long time."

Head coach Sharon Dingman said that, in order to pressure the dominant Huskers, the Hawkeyes will have to stretch out the rallies and limit their errors from the service line and at the net.

"I just want to see us learn how to compete for an entire match at a really high level," Dingman said. "We're getting closer to understanding that it's going to be two hours of really high-level competition."

Although Nebraska is a tall, physical team, Dingman said, there's no reason the Hawks can't put up a fight and have a good game.

Husz said going in as the underdog is a benefit, because it relieves some of the pressure — both from the game and from Iowa's goal to compete well.

"You always want to win, but I've been doing this so long I think I have a pretty good understanding of how to measure success," Dingman said. "We're measured by [the media], we're measured by the fans, we're measured by everyone else in the country by the scoreboard — but for what we're trying to do, there are lots of ways to measure success."

Despite the obvious challenge of competing against one of the top teams in the nation, the Hawkeyes are looking forward to competing in Lincoln because of the Cornhuskers' arena environment.

Nebraska's home arena, the Nebraska Coliseum, officially holds 4,030 fans. During home Big Ten matches, the Coliseum has held a crowds of more than 4,186, and it has been filled over capacity every game.

Iowa's best attendance this season was 2,133 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which holds 15,500 fans.

Dingman said she expects the environment to boost her team to a new level of excitement.

"The state of Nebraska loves volleyball, and it's a fun place to play because the crowd appreciates good volleyball," she said. "It's not going to be the rudeness that we might see when we play Michigan. I guarantee if the Hawkeyes make a good play, they're gong to appreciate it."

Although this will be the team's third road game in six days — and the midpoint of the season has proven to be exhausting for the Hawkeyes in the past — Iowa expects the invigorating environment of Nebraska's coliseum to lift its game to a new level.

"It's a tough, long season," sophomore Rachel Bedell said. "Especially this week, because we're getting back on the road, and being this busy can make it harder to get sleep, make sure you're eating the right things, and such. But we're all really excited to get out there and experience this. It's more than worth the trip."


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