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Iowa plays host to Northwestern and Illinois

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | NOVEMBER 01, 2013 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa volleyball team returns home this weekend to start the second half of Big Ten play, hosting Illinois and Northwestern at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday and Saturday.

The Black and Gold’s return to Mediacom Court will mark their first home match since a 3-2 victory over Indiana on Oct. 19.

The Hawks are coming off two rough road losses this past week against Nebraska and Penn State, and they have an overall record of 10-12, 1-9 record in conference play.

Iowa has faced both Illinois and Northwestern already this season, losing both matches by scores of 3-0. This time, they will get a chance to play both teams at home, an advantage that head coach Sharon Dingman thinks could help turn the tide in the Hawks favor.

“Obviously, playing at home is always and advantage,” Dingman said. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see how much of an advantage it really is come game time, though.”

Friday is expected to have one of the biggest home turnouts of the season.

“Obviously, you like to play at home in front of your fans. When we played at Illinois, they had 7,000 screaming fans there, so that was a pretty cool environment,” Dingman said.

Iowa features several women who are close to setting — or have already set — personal milestones.

Junior Alex Lovell recorded her 1,000th kill this past weekend against Penn State, and joined an elite list of only 17 former Hawkeyes to have done so. She will be presented with a special game ball award before Friday’s action.

“The last time we played against these two teams, we learned some shots that work really well against their two defenses, and we also learned of a few players who are easy targets for us to pick out, we’re definitely going to focus on that this weekend,” Lovell said.

In addition to Lovell’s record, senior libero Bethany Yeager is 50 digs away from breaking the school record of 1,931, and fellow senior Nikki Daily is just 19 digs away from becoming only the 15th player in school history to hit the 1,000 dig mark. She is also sixth all time in assists with 2,978.

“I think a lot has changed since the last time we played these two teams,” Yeager said. “Since then, we’ve seen basically every team in the Big Ten except for Ohio State, so we know the level of competition we’re going up against, and we know realistically what to expect and what we need to do to get better.”

The Illini and the Wildcats present challenges to an Iowa squad that has struggled in conference play this season, and while neither team is ranked, Dingman stressed that neither should be taken lightly.

“Northwestern in particular has got some really good things going on right now,” she said. “Their outsides are very physical. I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”


Iowa vs. Northwestern
Carver Hawkeye Arena
 7 p.m. today

Iowa vs. Illinois
Carver Hawkeye Arena
7 p.m. Saturday


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