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Frustration abounds on struggling volleyball team

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | NOVEMBER 21, 2013 5:00 AM

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Frustrating.

That’s the one word that comes to mind whenever someone brings up the Iowa volleyball team.

It’s frustrating for the players.

A season that started off as promising as any other was soon derailed once the team began conference play. A 9-2 nonconference record was quickly overshadowed by an eight-game Big Ten skid, and it’s only gotten worse from there. The Hawkeyes current record of 1-15 in conference play is tied for dead last in the Big Ten.

But that’s not why it’s frustrating.

It’s frustrating because the Black and Gold have been put in a position to win several times and have failed to do so all but once.

Up 2-0 over then-No. 8 Minnesota on Oct. 5, the Hawkeyes had three chances to upset a top-10 team for the first time in program history, and each time they let it slip away from them, eventually losing the match, 3-2. And while failing to upset the No. 8 team in the country is not reason in and of itself to panic, the style with which it happened should be.

They put themselves in a similar situation two weeks later when they hosted Indiana. This time they were able to hang on and defeat the lowly Hoosiers, but only after blowing yet another 2-0 lead and letting their opponent take them to the final few points of the set before barely escaping with a victory.

It’s not as if the Hawkeyes are lacking skill. When they decide to play as a unit with full energy and passion, they can hang with the toughest teams in the conference.

However, the key word there is when.

This Iowa squad is the definition of a slow starter. For whatever reason, the Hawkeyes have a tendency to come out flat early on while letting their opposition go on huge runs before they decide to find their game and start playing like a team.

They usually always battle back to keep it interesting, but when you play in the Big Ten, it is nearly impossible to dig yourself out of a hole almost every game and expect to win. Many of the matches could have gone either way, but a close loss is still a loss in the standings.

What’s worse is that after almost every single match, head coach Sharon Dingman and the members of the team cite a lack of energy as a main reason for their defeat, and yet every time, they have no idea how to counteract it. It’s a recurring problem that will continue to haunt them until they figure themselves out.

Which brings to light the most troubling aspect of the whole situation is that a team that has been in the basement of the Big Ten standings for years has not made progress.

It’s almost as if they’ve resigned themselves to their current position and have started to accept it as just another aspect of the game.

They know that they could and should be better, and in the future, maybe they will be, but for now they seem content with taking the slowest route possible to get there.

Take senior Bethany Yeager, for example. The senior libero has started every match of her Iowa career, and she recently set the school record for all-time digs.S She has had an outstanding career as a Hawkeye, and what does she have to show for it? Only six conference wins in four years.

If you’re a fan of Iowa volleyball, you should be frustrated, too. When you look around the Big Ten at other programs and see what other programs are and what Iowa could be, then see what they actually are, its enough to leave even the most die-hard Hawks fans scratching their heads.

They have the necessary tools to succeed and aren’t that far off from being competitive, but until they learn to play like a winning team, they might as well be miles away.


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