Iowa City native O'Deen to be newest starter for Iowa volleyball


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Before Iowa’s match against then-No. 20 Ohio State, redshirt freshman Alli O’Deen had no idea that’d she would start her first match of her short Hawkeye career.

“When I got the news that I was going to play a different position, my mindset completely changed,” the Iowa City native said. “I had to start figuring out what my new responsibility and role would be with the team.”

O’Deen will now start on the right side of the Hawkeye block instead of junior middle blocker Chanté Thompson.

According to the team, Thompson has been “suspended from team activities for failure to meet academic obligations.” Before her suspension, the junior was third on the team in kills and second in blocks.

This is the Hawkeyes’ third loss this year on the frontline. Sophomore Emily Yanny and freshman Erin Radke have each gone down with ACL injuries this season. With the losses of the 6-3 Thompson and 6-2 Yanny, Iowa has lost its two tallest players.

“All of our size is not with us right now,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “It means we have to be more diligent on our serve and pass game now. And we have to play some serious floor defense. Our backcourt has to be really good, and we weren’t on [against Ohio State].”

O’Deen, who starred at Iowa City West High, is being pushed into the starting lineup to play an unfamiliar position. Switching from outside hitter to right side will force her to expand her repertoire.

“I will have to focus a lot on blocking,” she said. “For most of the Big Ten teams, outside hitters are their go-to players. So a big thing for me is going to be learning how to see the block on the right side.”

So far this season the Hawkeyes have been out-blocked by opponents 186.5 to 157. The rearranged frontline of Iowa — which will include stalwart sophomore Alex Lovell, blocker extraordinaire Erin Leppek, and O’Deen — will not only have to find ways to stop offenses but also find ways to create offense.

“It’s a whole different look on our offense,” junior setter Nikki Dailey said. “We have to change up a few plays that I’d usually set for Chanté because Alli hits differently. It’s a whole new look on our right side. It’s a loss and a gain at the same time.”

The loss is obvious. Iowa loses experience on its frontline and a part of its offense for the rest of the season. But what the Hawkeyes gain is the unfamiliarity their opponents will have going forward against O’Deen.

Iowa will hope to use that unfamiliarity she brings to the lineup to get some wins. The Hawkeyes are on a six-game losing streak.

“When stuff like this happens, you have to be there for our team,” senior captain Allison Straumann said. “But at the same time, we have a job we have to think about. Learning to adapt and change accordingly is good for us. It’ll be a challenge for the team the next few games, but I think it’ll be a positive.”

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