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Iowa Volleyball Notebook: Shymansky’s first year set to begin

BY KYLE MANN | AUGUST 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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The volleyball Hawkeyes finished 2013 at only 11-21, but first-year head coach Bond Shymansky is coming into this season with the goal of not only improving upon that record but bringing about ideological changes to his hometown program. Here’s what to watch for:

Comfort level with a new squad

The Hawkeye squad returns six starters from last season, as well as 10 overall letter-winners. And Iowa’s freshman class was recognized by Prep Volleyball as Highest Honorable Mention nationwide. As such, after the first couple weeks of practice, Shymansky feels encouraged about the number of good players he can put on the floor.

He said it was a positive that he’s never experienced a season in which his starting lineup remains identical from beginning to end, and he noted that there is a possibility to see “nine or ten players actively involved in starting roles.”

The head coach’s confidence in his depth is an encouraging indicator for this season, but Shymansky also knows that there is still progress to be made. In particular, there will be an emphasis on awareness and being mentally prepared for every point.

“It’s not just what plays are we running,” Shymansky said. “How are we communicating with each other about improving what we did, or changing what we did, or getting over what we didn’t do? That’s the psychological part, and that’s where our game moves so fast.”

‘Great Today’

Led by seniors Alex Lovell and Alessandra Dietz, the team should have the leadership to help push the mental focus.

The team has been practicing twice and sometimes three times per day in the build-up to the season, and with its “Great Today” slogan, there seems to be a noticeable shift in the atmosphere.

“ ‘Great Today’ is a mindset that we all adopted over the summer, and it’s become an every-day thing for us before every practice,” Lovell said. “[Shymansky] will randomly call on people on the team and ask how we’re going to be great today. It makes us focus on a technique to specialize during that practice and to make it a habit.”

Before a single game has been played this season, Shymansky has sparked change for the better, and the players recognize it.

“You’ll walk into the gym, and I feel it on them,” Shymansky said. “They have a level of self-confidence right now and determination; they know they’re doing something better already than what they’ve done before.”

“The biggest difference is the competitive energy in the gym day in and day out at practice, and that’s something that we kind of lacked in the past,” Dietz said. “To be able to come in to practice every day and know your teammates all have the same energy and the coaching staff does, too, it’s really encouraging.”

Excitement for Shymansky

In Shymansky’s initial months at Iowa, the team seems to be responding to his energy and genuine passion to rejuvenate the program. It truly seems that there could be no better man for the job than the Iowa City native and Iowa graduate.

“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Shymansky said. “I feel like I’m a great product of everything that Iowa as a university and Iowa City as a community can do, so I’m proud to represent that product and the volleyball program.

“Now that I’m here, the goal is to make this the absolute best program that it can be.”


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