Stagnant offense slows Hawkeyes


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This weekend marked the 11th Big Ten defeat for the Iowa volleyball team this season, and according to many around the team, a lack of production and consistency on offense is to blame.

The Black and Gold were outshone on both sides of the ball by Illinois and Northwestern this past weekend. In head coach Sharon Dingman’s mind, it all comes back to being able to score points on a consistent level throughout the match.

Iowa’s attack was stagnant against Illinois, recording a team hitting percentage of -.048.

“It’s obviously going to be tough for us to win when we hit negative,” Dingman said. “There isn’t a single team in the country, from elementary school all the way up to college, that can win when they hit negative. Our offense is really sputtering right now, and we’ve got to correct it.”

In contrast, Illinois was able to defeat the Hawks largely because of its cohesiveness as a unit — every woman on the team recorded a positive hitting percentage. In comparison, Iowa junior Alex Lovell was the only Hawkeye to do so, tallying a percentage of .103.

After the match, Dingman took responsibility for her team’s disjointed effort.

“As coaches, we have to do a better job. We just have to do a better job, there’s no way around it,” Dingman said. “We have to help our hitters get kills, and I think it comes back to us. When the offense stumbles like this, I think it has to fall on us [the coaches] to do a better job training the hitters to hit different shots.”

So just how bad was the Hawkeye’s offense? Well, for starters, they were swept 3-0 at home for only the second time this season, and recorded double-digit hitting errors in the final two sets. By contrast, Illinois managed to limit its mistakes, averaging fewer than 6.5 errors per set.

The Illini were also able to gain momentum and go on 4-, 5-, and 6- point runs throughout the contest, to which the Black and Gold had no answer.

“In the end, I think it came down to, basically we just couldn’t find our rhythm. We really struggled,” senior Nikki Dailey said. “We really struggled trying to find a rhythm the whole entire match.”

Daily said that while the Hawks are good at keeping things close sometimes, they still haven’t found a way to attack the ball consistently through all three sets to win a match.

“We’re good at fighting back,” she said. “When we go down by a lot, we’re really good at fighting to get those points back and keep it close. The only thing we’re not good at is finding rhythm to get a lead and then being able to maintain it all match.”

Dailey thinks the team has gained valuable learning experience from the defeat.

“What you see is what you get with them,” she said. “They’re physical. They like to bang the ball hard and don’t try to get to fancy, which is something I think we can learn from, but I don’t think we should try to emulate them. We have to find our own identity and what works for us to help us win.”
As for how to correct things, the answer is simple: practice.

“I think we just need to work on being smarter and knowing what’s open,” junior Erin Leppek said. “We need to stick with our game plan, hit our shots, but at the same time try different shots. Just anything to mix it up and keep the blockers off balance.”

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