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Iowa volleyball wraps up season with loss and a forgettable streak

BY CARLOS SOSA | NOVEMBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team concluded its season on Nov. 24 with an admirable performance against Illinois.

The Fighting Illini (14-16, 8-12) won in straight sets (26-24, 25-18, 25-20), but throughout the match, Iowa (10-23, 2-18) stayed competitive — something the team has struggled to do over the last month.

“It’s tough that we didn’t win the first set,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “I loved the team’s composure and the way they competed to come back in the third set. It would’ve been easy for us to just take it in, but the team didn’t have any give up in them.”

Sophomore hitter Alex Lovell paced Iowa with 16 kills. She surprised many last year as a freshman, and this season she separated herself as Iowa’s top hitter with 382 kills — the most by a Hawkeye in a season since 2005.

Junior Nikki Dailey also filled the stat sheet with her team-best 18th double-double of the season — she registered 30 assists while adding 10 digs. Dailey registered 1,103 assists this year, and she ranks sixth in school history with 2,561 career assists.

Iowa had a reason, though, for a hard-fought performance.

Senior Allison Straumann played her final game as a Hawkeye against Illinois, and the team wanted a win for her.

“We came out with a nothing-to-lose attitude,” sophomore Alessandra Dietz said. “We were excited for Alli’s last game, and we wanted to show our fans what we could do. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull out a win.”

As a captain, Straumann’s leadership this season showed the Hawks how to stay positive — the Hawkeyes have won only 10 Big Ten matches since her freshman year — and demonstrated that small victories can be achieved.

“We did a lot of good things tonight and should be proud of what we’ve done this season,” the Cary, Ill., native said. “ I know it doesn’t show in our record and in some of the sets we’ve played, but we’ve worked hard all year and deserved to play well tonight.”

The Hawkeyes played better than they have in November, but they extended a streak that will define their 2012 Big Ten season. Including the Nov. 24 loss in straight sets, Iowa finished the season with a 37-set losing streak.

In comparison, Iowa’s 2011 team finished with a 1-19 Big Ten record but won eight sets in November. This season, the Hawkeyes’ last set victory was in the fourth set of a five-set loss against Wisconsin on Oct. 13.

The future of the Hawkeye volleyball doesn’t look as bleak as this month made it seem. Iowa’s roster will essentially be the same, but the Hawkeyes’ top priority for next season will be to stay healthy.

Key Iowa players Emily Yanny and Erin Radke both suffered ACL injuries this season, and the team suspended another frontline player. That crippled its offensive attack and ability to block on defense. Next season, the Hawkeyes could return five seniors, who will try to forget the past two years in hopes of bringing Iowa its first .500 season since 2000.

“It’s been a trying year,” Dingman said. “But at some point, everything the players dealt with this year will benefit this program.”


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