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Hawkeye volleyball's Leppek blocks her way to starting lineup

BY CARLOS SOSA | OCTOBER 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa volleyball has been forced to go down its bench in search of a player to replace the injuried players the Hawkeyes have lost on their frontline. The Hawkeyes have had two key players go down with ACL injuries since Sept. 15 — sophomore Emily Yanny and freshman Erin Radke.

Sophomore Erin Leppek was called upon to replace the injured Radke, who was second on the team in kills when she was injured on Oct. 5. Leppek, however, differs from Radke in that her game revolves more around the defensive side of the ball.

“Currently, my biggest contribution to team is blocking,” the Rochester, Mich., native said. “But I can definitely score as well.”

Leppek’s coaches agree that she has been a defensive bright spot for the team.

“We recruited her because she was a really good blocker,” assistant coach Jason Allen said. “With the injuries, she’s our only depth we have at middle [blocker]. It’s more of a natural position for her. And now that she’s [starting], she’s leading our team in blocks.”

Leppek has 29 blocks on the season, and since she was inserted into the starting lineup she’s registered 16 — good for ninth in the Big Ten in blocks per set.

“I always try to focus on closing blocks,” Leppek said. “It makes it easier for the back row to get around me. If I can’t [a clean block], hopefully, I can get a touch on the ball so the team can play it.”

One part of Leppek’s game that goes under the radar is her leaping ability. The advantage she has playing on the frontline is that her hang time catches opponents off-guard when they’re winding up for a kill.

“She can jump out of the gym,” team captain Bethany Yeager said. “She gets great touches and can great blocks by just reaching over. And that definitely helps us on defense.”

This year, the Iowa bench has played a significant role in keeping the Hawkeyes competitive.

Players such as Kari Mueller, Katie Kelley, and Leppek have all had an impact.

It seems the bench has been ready to play, and when called upon, and Leppek was no different.

“Erin’s role has definitely changed,” Yeager said. “She’s embraced that role really well and has been huge for us in the middle. She has a great level of fitness and is always going as hard as she can.”

The Hawkeyes will play No. 1 Penn State tonight and No. 20 Ohio State on Saturday, so Iowa will need Leppek to continue to block and kill the ball against some of the conference’s top offensive squads.

“Blocking will be important against both teams. Penn State is a big team and gets a lot of kills,” Leppek said. “Getting kills are important against Penn State, because they’re not going to let you get easy points. So getting kills is essential.”


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