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Iowa volleyball looks to Lovell to continue recent success

BY CARLOS SOSA | OCTOBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Sophomore Alex Lovell will now be the focus for opposing teams after Iowa won its first two Big Ten conference games of the season over the past weekend.

She tallied 37 kills on the weekend, hitting a team-high .297. And the weekend wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime performance, either. The sophomore leads the team with 247 kills, which accounts for over 26 percent of the Hawkeyes’ total offense.

And now she’s on her opponents’ radar.

The outside hitter was the first freshman since 2005 to surpass 300 kills in a season last year, recording 312. Lovell, however, was still viewed as an underclassman, and teams weren’t expecting her to be the top hitter on a Big Ten team so quickly.

“Coming in as a freshman hitter and starting, you’re going to give the other team new looks and they’re not going to know what to expect,” junior setter Nikki Dailey said.

But now teams will try to prevent Lovell, the current Big Ten Player of the Week, from performing the way she did against then-No. 12 Purdue. Lovell dominated the Hawkeyes’ match against the Boilermakers by posting a career-high in kills with 24.

Head coach Sharon Dingman said the Hawkeyes’ two losses against Michigan and Michigan State on Sept 28-29 were “what it took to make some changes,” and that Lovell worked hard all week in practice to overcome the losses.

“Alex really developed during the second half of last year,” Dingman said. “That has continued into this season. She’s rededicated herself to making changes to her game, and she knew she had to.”

Now that the Leonard, Mich., native has the attention of other teams, she has to continue to work on what brought her success in the first place: mixing up her shot selection.

“I focused on shots more [in practice last week],” Lovell said. “And trying to hit away from the libero, which is a bad habit I’ve developed. In order to be successful, you have to mix it up more.”

Embracing the change in shot selection will help Lovell navigate the grueling defenses of the Big Ten. Becoming a smarter hitter will also help her to continue hitting at a high rate and allow the Hawkeyes to consistently kill the ball on offense.

“What clicked for her this weekend is trying different shots,” Dailey said. “When she started doing that this season, she regressed a little bit. But finally, after a couple of weeks, it started to click for her.”

The Iowa squad looks forward to Lovell’s growth as a hitter, but the Hawkeyes are more focused on continuing the success they were able to achieve in their third weekend of conference play. And to do that the Hawkeyes, and Lovell, will have to have the right mentality.

“We know our weekends are going to be difficult. Every weekend in the Big Ten is,” Lovell said. “But competing against those teams gives us more motivation that we can do this. We’re not going to be at the bottom of the Big Ten anymore.”


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