Hawkeyes turn effort around against Michigan State
The schedule had the Iowa volleyball team playing two games this past weekend, and anyone who attended both saw two completely different Hawkeye teams.
A team that looked utterly overmatched against Michigan was able to make a miraculous turnaround and take No. 16 Michigan State right down to the wire in the final two sets, before finally being defeated 25-23 twice in a row.
“We competed hard to keep ourselves in it,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “I lived our energy and thought it was really positive, which is something we talked about after the first game. I’m proud of how we played.”
Iowa still lost both matches 3-0, however at this point in the season, even small signs of success against tough conference opponents such Michigan State should be seen as signs of potential and progress.
The Wolverines defeated Iowa handily in the first game on Nov. 15. Neither Dingman or any of the women thought that they competed at a high enough level, and they set out to right the ship No. 16 against the Spartans.
However the Black and Gold still needed more time to find their game. After getting thrashed in the first set of the Michigan State game, 25-10, the Hawkeyes managed to finally play as a cohesive unit and take the Spartans right down to the wire both times.
“Defensively, after that first set, we made a few adjustments, and then we made some more after halftime that I thought helped us a lot,” Dingman said. “I thought our players responded to those adjustments and executed them really well.”
Iowa struggled passing the ball in the first game against Michigan, putting what Dingman felt was unfair pressure on outside hitters Alex Lovell and Rachael Bedell.
“Alex carried a big load,” Dingman said. “They served to her a lot, and I thought she and Rachael played great, but we just made too many hitting errors. She’s expected just to do everything for our team, and we have to pass better and get some kills from other people. When you have two other starters hit negative, that puts a lot of pressure on your outsides.”
Iowa passed the ball much more effectively in the second game against the Spartans, taking some much needed pressure of their two outside hitters.
“Tonight, I thought our passing was better at times, however at other times when it was necessary was when it fell apart, which is obviously frustrating, but the good news is that it’s something we can work on and keep improving,” Lovell said.
The Hawkeyes had their hands full coping with the dominant front line of Michigan State, however, Bedell and Lovell stepped up with big kills throughout the match to keep the Hawks in the game.
“You just have to play smarter than them,” Bedell said. “They are bigger girls and good at blocking, but maybe they’re not as good at some other things, which is something we tried to take advantage of.”
And while a loss is still a loss, Dingman was pleased with the way her team hung tough with a top-ranked opponent like Michigan State.
“I thought we competed hard enough to win, but in the end we just couldn’t get Rachael a good swing,” Dingman said. “They wanted to produce their own energy, and they did, so I’m proud of how we played, I just wish that we were still playing right now.”
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