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For the Iowa v-ball team, the class of 2014 is key to culture change

BY CARLOS SOSA | SEPTEMBER 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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The class of 2014 for the Hawkeye volleyball team stepped on campus with the expectation of revitalizing the program. Rachael Bedell, Nikki Dailey, Chanté Thompson, and Bethany Yeager knew of Iowa’s history, finishing under .500 in each of the previous seven seasons, but they felt strongly about creating a new culture around Iowa City.

“Coming in as freshman we knew [head coach Sharon Dingman] and [assistant coach Jason Allen] held high expectations for us to change the program,” said Yeager, a native of Brenham, Texas. “They wanted us to come in and bring a strong work ethic to motivate those around us. [The coaches] knew we were all hard workers, and they thought that could help change this program.”

The four women started to create bonds before they got on on campus. Bedell, Thompson, and Yeager all hail from Texas, and they knew each other from club play. Getting in contact with Dailey, a native of Wisconsin, wasn’t a problem because the women were going to be together for the next four years.

“I knew Chanté and Bethany before, and we all got to know Nikki, so that wasn’t intimidating,” Bedell said. “We all wanted to come here and make the program better. We still have this year and next year, but we just want to leave with a legacy.”

The Hawkeyes have struggled to field tournament teams like other Big Ten programs — most notably Penn State, currently the no. 1 team in the nation, and recent newcomer No. 6 Nebraska.

Iowa has come in this season with a new sense of determination. The team’s juniors have helped create the urgency that is required for the squad to compete in the nation’s toughest conference. The Big Ten currently has seven teams ranked in the top 25.

“Our first weekend, we played two top-20 teams right off the bat,” Dailey said. “It’s not like we can ease into the Big Ten. We’re going head-on from the beginning. But we saw moments where we played like a top-20 team and moments where we played like freshmen.”

The Hawkeyes opened conference play against then-No. 23 Ohio State and No. 4 Penn State. Iowa didn’t play well against the Buckeyes and dropped the match in straight sets (25-18, 25-20, 25-16) but played more aggressively against the Nittany Lions in a 3-1 (25-20, 25-21, 27-29, 25-14) loss.

“I know we’re 0-2, but we came out more confident than we’ve been all season [last] weekend because we’re so close to being at the level we need to play at every match,” Dailey said.

This weekend, the Hawkeyes will continue conference play against a pair of strong Michigan teams. Michigan and Michigan State are a combined 26-5 on the season, with the Spartans being ranked No. 24 and Michigan just missing the cut while receiving some votes.

Dingman knows that even with the Big Ten season heating up that her players will keep the expectations they came to Iowa with at the forefront.

“One of the things I appreciate from that whole class is that they do have an expectation to win,” Dingman said. “They have never lost the expectation that they should win. They understand now, especially as juniors, the level of training it takes to win in the Big Ten.”


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