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Volleyball loss comes with silver lining

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | OCTOBER 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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Despite giving up three-straight sets and losing 3-2 to No. 8 Minnesota, the Iowa volleyball team maintains that the loss was a learning experience with positive takeaways.

While that may not sound like something to tout as an accomplishment, both the coaches and players say the game was valuable.

“We’ve had never been in this position before,” head coach Sharon Dingman said after the game. “We haven’t been up 2-0 and then 2-1 on a top ranked team like Minnesota in a long time.

A long time is an understatement. The first two sets that theHawkeyes won on Oct. 5 were just the second and third sets they’ve won against a Big-Ten opponent since October 2012, a period that spans almost a full calendar year as well as 17 Big Ten games.

“We hadn’t been up on a top ten team in a long time, and I thought we looked like it,” Dingman said. “We got pretty tentative and looked like we stopped having fun, particularly in the fourth set and just kind of lost ourselves a little bit. However, we regrouped well in the fifth and fought right until the very end,”

Despite the obvious difference in outcomes, all five sets of the match were pretty similar. Minnesota was able to go up several points early on, but each time the Hawks were able to storm back and keep it close.

The Black and Gold came out of the gate hot and managed to run away with the first two sets, 25-20 and 25-23, thanks largely in part the the dominant play of the frontline, led by outside hitter Alex Lovell and middle blocker Allie Dietz.

“I think what gives us a lot of success is when the setters have the confidence to mix up who they give the ball to,” Dietz said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of the hitters and just makes everything a little bit faster on our side and lets us control the match.”

The Hawks’ inexperience began to show a little in the third and fourth sets — they hung back and let the Gophers dictate the pace of play. While they managed to tie the score three separate times in the final set, Minnesota was able to shut it down in the end, taking advantage of three Iowa free balls on the match point.

“I thought Minnesota’s two seniors played like two seniors who play for a top-ranked team that’s is down 2-0 should play,” Dingman said. “They did a tremendous job for their team, and it made a big difference for them.”

As far as a learning experience goes, Dingman said it depends on how the players react.

“I hope we can find out what we learned, because the only way we’re going to know what we learned is if we’re in this situation again,” she said. “The way we’ve played the last two matches, certainly we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and the level at which we’re capable of competing.”

Had Iowa won, it would have been its first victory over a top-10 opponent in school history, and while the Hawkeyes fell short in the end, the game served as a reminder to everyone in attendance that this team can hang with the best in the conference.

“I learned that our team has a lot of passion and heart in what we do,” freshman Alyssa Klostermann said. “From experience, people like to overlook us, and tonight, I think, we definitely showed that we don’t give up and we’re in every single game, and I think Minnesota was a little stunned to see that.”


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