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Hawks counting on senior performers in South Dakota

BY KYLE MANN | SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team is taking a trip for the third-straight week, heading to Brookings, South Dakota, to compete in the South Dakota State University Challenge. This will be the most intense weekend thus far — the 4-2 Hawkeyes will play four games in two days.

Action will begin early today, when the Hawkeyes’ first serve scheduled for 10 a.m. against Eastern Illinois. The Panthers are also 4-2. The Hawks will then play the North Dakota at 5 p.m. The Bison are 6-3 and have won five of their last six matches.

The Alex Lovell-led Hawkeyes are right back at it on Saturday, facing Florida International at 10 a.m., then the hosting Jackrabbits at 7 p.m. Both teams are 3-4, and South Dakota State went winless in last weekend’s Jackrabbit Invitational.

Hawkeye head coach Bond Shymansky is going to look for seniors Lovell and Alessandra Dietz to power the team through the long weekend. The two were named to the All-Tournament team last weekend in Arizona State, and they have been a force up front early in the season.

Lovell leads the team with 74 kills as well as kills per set with 3.7. Dietz is third in both categories and leads the team in blocks and blocks per set with 25 and 1.25.

Lovell in particular has come out of the gates strong. She was also named to the All-Tournament team of opening weekend at Texas A&M, and she has had 10 or more kills in all but one match. The 5-11 senior was the kills leader for the Hawkeyes in 2013 and appears poised for more of the same.

“She wants to be the consummate go-to player for us, and she can be,” Shymansky said. “Her role is so significant. She plays all six rotations, is in the match the whole time, and expends a ton of energy.”

Shymansky appreciates what Lovell brings to the team, and he believes that she could be the team’s X-factor this year.

“She’s been a stabilizer for us in so many ways because she does everything very well,” he said. “And then in the matches where she does something great, it really propels us over the top.”

While Lovell has been off to a hot start, the team collectively has performed fairly well, particularly for a team that plays so many new players. Lovell points to Shymansky and his coaching staff for getting a still-meshing team prepared to perform well so quickly.

“We’ve done well at incorporating scouting reports,” she said. “We have a lot of freshmen who play, and in that transition, scouting reports are a big thing to get used to. For all the information that’s on them, we’ve done pretty well at executing them and taking care of what we need to in games.”

Iowa was 2-0 last weekend entering Sunday before they dropped a hard-fought match to No. 17 Arizona State. The Hawkeyes were swept, but fought hard in each set, including playing into the 30s in the second set.

Dietz thinks the team learned something about itself in that game and ultimately will turn the negative into a positive.

“The Arizona State loss was a lot of little things that, mentally, we weren’t focusing and locking in on those things,” she said. “But that’s something we worked on in practice this week, and I think we’ll definitely improve on that this weekend.”

Follow @KyleFMann on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa volleyball team.


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