Iowa volleyball plays Michigan, Michigan State second time


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Michigan State and No. 23 Michigan will invade Carver-Hawkeye Arena this weekend to challenge the Iowa volleyball team.

The Hawkeyes (11-14, 1-11 Big Ten) said they hope to use their previous losses against each team this season to give then an advantage.

Iowa faced Michigan (16-8, 4-8) on Sept. 30 and Michigan State (17-7, 6-6) on Oct. 1 and lost both matches in straight sets. But now in the back half of Big Ten play, Iowa will face some opponents for a second time. By watching film and remembering past games, the Black and Gold is able to use history as a learning tool.

The Hawkeyes only recorded 37 kills and a .158 hitting percentage when they played Penn State on Sept. 24, and dropped the match 3-0. But when Iowa faced the Nittany Lions a second time on Oct. 28, the team boosted its kill count to 50 with a .191 attack percentage, allowing Iowa to win a set against the No. 14 Lions.

Head coach Sharon Dingman said her team's previous experience against Penn State was a major factor in the Hawks winning their first set in 16 tries.

Because Iowa has seen all its opponents before this season, the Hawkeyes can study film of themselves playing against familiar faces. This helps the team take note of what worked well and what failed against each upcoming offense.

This strategy especially helps sophomore setter Nikki Dailey, the player Dingman said has improved the most since the last time Iowa faced Michigan and Michigan State.

Dailey said watching film of herself helped her realize she needed to revamp her offensive strategy.

"I'm taking charge more," Dailey said. "I'm not scared to get a kill myself and put pressure on them through dumps or tips, and it's really clicked and worked well for me."

Dailey recorded only five kills combined in Iowa's matches against Penn State and Ohio State in late September. But the 5-9 setter tallied eight kills in each of the rematches, numbers that led the Hawkeyes in both games.

Seeing an opponent in person again also presents several advantages over film. Although Dingman is a "huge fan" of watching tape, she said there's some things that simply can't be captured on the screen.

"You can learn a lot on film because tendencies don't change that much when you see them in person," Dingman said. "But what you do see are body language things — how they respond, and the mentality that they take. In person, you can see when a player is either catching fire or about to break, and that can be invaluable."

Senior middle blocker Mallory Husz said facing the Michigan schools in person for a second time this season will make the Hawkeyes play better, but it can also be a hindrance in their search for a second conference win.

"We can remember our performance against them in the first place," Husz said. "We can remember which girl attacked us the most, how they were successful, and areas that we attacked them and were successful. But then again, that's also the disadvantage because they have that same advantage."

Dingman said it will be a challenge to break her team's seven-match losing streak because all the teams in the conference know each other well by now.

"We pretty much know what Michigan and Michigan State are going to try to do," Dingman said. "And they know what the Hawkeyes are going to try to do, so we just have to execute at a higher level consistently. That's our challenge at this point."

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