Hawkeye volleyball focused on Big Ten “grind”


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The Hawkeye volleyball team is in the midst of what fellow Big Ten players and coaches describe as the “Big Ten grind.” Iowa, however, is experiencing a tough side of the grind — they are in the midst of five-game losing streak.

“Every Big Ten team that has come [to Carver-Hawkeye] has been telling us they’re tired,” assistant coach Ben Boldt said. “It’s tough to keep things fresh at this point in time.”

Iowa dropped its fifth-straight Big Ten match against No. 1 Penn State in straight sets (25-15, 25-19, 25-15) on Wednesday. Since winning its only two Big Ten matches of the season against Indiana and then-No. 12 Purdue earlier in October, the Hawkeyes have been out of sync.

“It has been tough that we haven’t played our best,” team captain Bethany Yeager said. “We haven’t won but also haven’t played well either, which is frustrating.”

That notion rang true against Penn State.

Sophomore Katie Kelley was one of the numerous Hawkeyes who didn’t play well against the Nittany Lions. On Thursday, however, Kelley and freshman reserve Julianne Blomberg were the first players on the court before practice, taking extra serves.

“I had trouble passing this last week,” Kelley said. “I didn’t have the performance I wanted against Penn State. And the only thing you can do is work on it to get better.”

The Hawkeyes haven’t been able to put it all together on the court, and as the season has progressed, it has affected their mental focus going into matches. Iowa can’t rely on the physical abilities that such teams as Nebraska or Penn State possess. This makes it harder for them to stay competitive when plays aren’t going their way.

“We have had a lack of focus and haven’t been mentally ready for every match,” Yeager said. “Once we lose focus for one point, it changes the momentum of the game. We haven’t played up to our potential, and to beat teams like [Penn State] we have to play at a high level.”

Being a fundamentally sound volleyball team is the basis of a team’s ability to be competitive. When fundamentals are missing, it’s difficult to win games.

“Serving and passing are the things that we have to do at the highest level in order to give ourselves a chance to win,” Boldt said. “If we do that, we’re able to involve a lot more people in our offense. We have attackers, but we have to serve and pass.”

Over the Hawkeyes past three losses, they’ve only had one player register double digit kills — junior Rachael Bedell. She registered double-digit hits against both Nebraska (14) and Northwestern (12).

“The grind” for the Hawkeyes continues against No. 20 Ohio State on Saturday. Snapping a five-game losing streak will be tough against the Buckeyes, but having the right mindset will allow the Hawkeyes to be at least competitive in the second half of Big Ten play.

“It’s all about who is going to change something first in order to win,” senior Allison Straumman said.

“Our goal is to come out against every Big Ten team in the second half and play consistently. At times that may not happen, so we need to make sure that were consistent with how we approach [different situations].”

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