Iowa volleyball acknowledges small victories


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The Iowa volleyball team has endured a tough stretch over the past month. The squad (10-17, 2-12 Big Ten) has lost eight in a row, but the players haven’t stopped working toward playing good volleyball.

That hard work is best exemplified by captains Nikki Dailey and Bethany Yeager on the stat sheet.

They have been two of the Hawkeyes’ best players since they came to Iowa City in 2010. Both players have started every match since the start of last season and have steadily climbed the Iowa record books at the respective positions.

“Whenever you approach a record, it’s a reflection of coming in every day and doing their job,” assistant coach Ben Boldt said. “I know that they don’t think about [stats], but they do think about coming into practice and trying hard every day. And those numbers just add up over time.”

To initiate an offense, the libero in volleyball must dig the ball — and Yeager does just that. The Brenham, Texas, native has recorded 1,447 digs in her two-plus years as a Hawkeye, which ranks fifth all-time in Iowa history. She also ranks second in the Big Ten in total digs (458) and third in digs per set (4.53).

“We’re each going to have stats from what we’ve done in games,” Yeager said. “It’s my job to get digs, but it’s important that they be good digs to get the team in system. That’s something we’ve been focusing on a lot lately, the quality of our reps.”

Yeager’s ability to dig the ball greatly aids Dailey’s ability to set the ball. While Yeager initiates the offense, Dailey quarterbacks it. Dailey ranks sixth all-time in assists in Iowa history with 2,414.

“A big thing we’ve been focusing on recently is practice statistics,” she said. “Being the leaders in those weekly statistical categories shows why we’re getting playing time because we’re consistent in practice, not only games.”

The way the season has gone for the Hawkeyes, it seems wise to let the best players, not the most decorated, compete in matches. That tactic, however, only motivates players such as Daily and Yeager more because it gives them reason to play.

The two are team-first players, and no one knows that better than one of Iowa’s best hitters, Alex Lovell.

“To reach those goals it takes hard work and effort from the whole team,” Lovell said. “Success as a hitter only comes from success from the passer and the setter. So it’s really a reflection on all the work our team has put into it.”

Lovell leads the team in kills (317) and recently surpassed her kill total of 312 from a year ago. In 2011, the Leonard, Mich., native was the first Iowa freshman since 2005 to register 300 kills in a season.

While the stats of each player are evidence to the hard work they’ve put in during practice, it’s still no consolation when the team is struggling.

“Overall, it’s more important if our stats are really contributing to our team or not,” Yeager said. “It’s definitely not what we had hoped for but we have to find small victories in other places … I think we’ve been working on getting the small success in things because we aren’t winning right now and that’s frustrating for us.”

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