Hawkeye road trips are no easy task


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For the Iowa volleyball team, going on the road and playing tough competition, often in back-to-back days, is no small task, especially in an elite conference such as the Big Ten.

What can be even more challenging is the amount of planning that goes into orchestrating a weekend-long trek across the Midwest.

It’s a time-consuming job that gets almost no recognition and requires constant dedication, something that first-year Iowa volleyball Director of Operations Tanja Speaker can attest to.

“We start planning and getting everything ready for next season basically as soon as the current season ends,” Speaker said. “Basically, once its over I have to start planning for next year, especially once football weekends start.”

Things that most people, athletes and fans alike, take for granted are things that Speaker must focus on if the team is to perform well away from Iowa City, such as booking hotel rooms and making travel arrangements, as well as making sure the team is properly fed.

“I usually book the hotel rooms almost a year in advance, just to make sure we get a good rate, and then about two weeks before we leave, I’ll start to get the preliminary things out of the way, like roommate assignments, setting up meals for the team, pregame matches, all that stuff,” she said.

When everything but volleyball is taken care of beforehand, it frees up the Hawkeyes to focus on their next opponent and bonding with teammates.

“Since last weekend was the first weekend of Big Tens, I think it was a little different just because of the adjustment process, but that’s just the nature of it,” junior Alessandra Dietz said. “If you play Friday night, one of the good things is that you can stay focused and turn around and do it again on Saturday, so that’s really exciting.”

While travel is a necessary part of any team’s schedule, that Iowa is one the Western-most teams geographically in the Big Ten makes the job that much harder. Away games for the Hawkeyes mean more miles logged than most other teams in the Big Ten, which are more closely located with each other.

Road trips to Michigan and Michigan State and trek trek to Penn State are just a few of the highlights of the Iowa travel schedule this season.

“Obviously, you always like to play at home more,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “But that’s part of the Big Ten, and that’s what it takes to compete here.”

These distances mean that Speaker must have a plan for any situation that could arise.

“The main thing we try to do is foresee anything that could go wrong,” she said. “Obviously, working with a group of 25 is challenging, but we’re so lucky because the coaches and the playing staff are pretty low-maintenance.”

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