Northwestern to be mental test for Iowa volleyball


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The volleyball Hawkeyes were left in awe after No. 4 Nebraska swept them in straight sets (22-25, 14-25, 9-25) on Wednesday night.

The disappointment didn’t come from the Hawkeyes losing the match. It was how they lost and how they let such a promising start slip away so quickly.

“We’re all baffled at our performance [against Nebraska],” junior Rachael Bedell said. “It’s hard to even pinpoint what happen, which is even more frustrating. We became desperate when we didn’t need to be.”

The Hawkeyes began the first set differently from many of their previous matches this season. They started aggressively and were even able to battle to a 5-point lead, 19-14, midway through the opening set. But then it all went downhill.

Iowa has been fighting all season to be able to be competitive in the Big Ten. Mentally, however, the Hawkeyes have lacked the focus needed to compete with the tough Big Ten competition.

“We have a lot to work on mentally,” team captain Bethany Yeager said. “We can work on that in practice. Being ready mentally from the get-go.”

While being prepared for each match is at the forefront of the Hawkeyes’ concerns, they still have kinks to work out with their new lineup.

“Erin [Leppek] and I together block pretty well, which helps the defense out,” junior Chanté Thompson said. “When we’re actually in system and we’re focused, Erin and I blocking together works well. She does a good job closing the block, but we couldn’t get Nebraska out of system.”

Leppek has done a good job of blocking opponents since being inserted into the lineup on Oct. 5 against Indiana. She averaged 4.5 blocks in the four matches before Nebraska.

The match against the Cornhuskers, however, proved to be a good challenge for the new lineup. Playing such a dominant team forced the Hawkeyes to abandon the most important aspects of volleyball — the serve and pass game.

“The serve and pass game slowed down a lot, and that negatively effects our team,” Leppek said. “Because we have to rely solely on the outside hitters to get kills. If Nikki [Dailey] is far off the net or we’re out of system, you can’t set the middles. If the other team knows where you’re setting every time, it’s so easy to block.”

While adjustments need to be made to the Hawkeyes’ plan, they must regain their composure mentally on the court. The disappointing loss to Nebraska has forced the Hawks to re-evaluate their urgency.

Going into the Oct. 21 match against Northwestern — which, like Iowa, only has two Big Ten wins — the Hawkeyes will try put forth a respectable effort.

“Northwestern is a good matchup for us,” Bedell said. “Not only do we want to redeem ourselves, but we want to end the first half of Big Ten in a good way. We want to go in knowing what we can do and play well.”

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