Iowa volleyball frosh Radke continues to learn

BY CARLOS SOSA | AUGUST 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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Erin Radke was the Gatorade Player of the Year her senior year in South Dakota. Here at Iowa, however, her rank is a bit different. She has just begun her freshman year of college.

As freshmen, most athletes are given time to learn the system and sit on the sidelines observing how the college game is different from high school. But Radke won’t get that luxury.

In the Hawkeye Challenge last weekend, outside hitter Radke was able to get 27 kills over four games, but her play was shaky. She performed admirably but showed that coming in as a freshman and competing isn’t easy.

“I thought [her play] was a little inconsistent,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “But in the South Dakota State match, she played a huge role for us and certainly keyed us to a victory.”

Radke had her best game against a familiar foe, South Dakota State. She killed the ball 13 times and fit comfortably in the offense in just the second game of her college career. With only a short time to prepare for her first tournament, she showed a glimpse of the player she can become.

“It’s an honoring experience, the way I can come in and work hard in the preseason and have so much to learn,” Radke said. “It was fun to get some experience that was well needed before Big Ten play.”

Radke will have to wait over three weeks to see her first Big Ten opponent. But by that time she will have had 13 possible matches to get settled within the offense that includes a variety of outside hitters, including sophomores Alex Lovell and Erin Leppek and juniors Chante’ Thompson and Rachael Bedell.

Lovell faced the same situation during her freshman campaign in 2011. She was looked at as a potential ball killer and had to learn quickly and contribute early.

“It’s nerve-racking as a freshman,” Lovell said. “[Radke] experienced that last weekend, so the nerves are a little bit gone, but once Big Ten starts, it’s differently harder.”

Radke will play behind a slew of women who are more experienced and, with more depth on this year’s squad, won’t be burdened with carrying as much of the load as Lovell was last year. But she will still be asked to perform at the level she is capable of playing.

“There are times we want her to be top fiddle,” Dingman said. “Because she is capable physically, she is capable of being an impactful attacker. She is quite a presence at the net.”

Radke finished her high-school career with a Class AA state championship along with 1,095 kills. But with her college career now underway, all those accolades are now an afterthought. Radke said she will look to her older teammates for guidance while trying to find her way as a freshman with hefty expectations.

“I just want this year to be a big learning year,” she said. “I’m at a big program with big expectations and [I want to] keep the mentality of not getting frustrated.”

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