Shymansky’s offense emphasizes tempo, isolation at the net

BY KYLE MANN | OCTOBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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Bond Shymansky’s arrival as Iowa’s new head volleyball coach this season has been well-documented, and with it, promises of a new-look offense. After the team’s home-opener on Sept. 27, the changes in scheme have become apparent.

The offense was largely stymied in the opener against elite competition in No. 8 Nebraska, but the loss and the manner in which it unfolded can be as telling as good offense in a win.

“The offense is so predicated on solid passing,” Shymansky said. “That’s what you could see with our group; when the passing breaks down, the offense really kind of comes to a screeching halt.”

As a team that plays a significant number of young players, and with even the veterans only a month into a season with a new system, Shymansky said there’s a bit of refining left to do, but the process is coming along nicely.

“We’ve been in a lot of tight-match situations against great teams,” he said. “And when we get into those situations, we need to play with a poise and confidence that really only comes with experience.

“We continue to get, every day, passing reps in practice. It becomes the most important skillset for us.”

Alyssa Klostermann is the team’s starting setter and leader in assists with 265 overall and 6.3 per set. If the sophomore is any indication, the team has a firm grasp on the philosophy and goals of the system.

The goal is more than simply good passing — every team wants that. What is to be the trademark of the new-look Hawkeyes, however, is the speed and abruptness of the attack.

“The new offense is about tempo,” Klostermann said. “Every set that we have is quick and has tempo. It does have a trajectory and an arch point, but ultimately it gets to the point of the hitter very fast.”

The advantage this gives the Hawkeyes is crucial. As a team that has not traditionally had elite size, a quick attack can manufacture opportunities to strike their even more physically imposing opponents.

“Playing in the Big Ten, a lot of times we’re playing girls who are 6-5 or 6-6, and we do not have that size of girls,” Klostermann said. “However, we can still beat them with the speed of the ball. So while they’re trying to go up to block us, the ball’s already in our hitter’s hands so we can hit around it.”

To further illustrate the freshness of the entire offense and the players in it — Michelle Fugarino, the team’s leader in digs and third in assists — is a freshman. Ahead of Fugarino, the second-leading assist person with 226 overall and 5.38 per set is freshman Kaylee Smith.

Smith and Klostermann have worked extensively together as the team’s setters, and Smith says that the endgame of the advantage from the tempo, produced by the passing, is about finding an isolated point of attack at the net.

“It gives our hitters a lot of one-on-one matchups, so there’s only one block up,” Smith said. “That’s probably the biggest difference from just a traditional offense.”

The team is young, and the offense even younger. Shymansky says passing is a skill that can either win or lose a match, and there have been glimpses of both already this season. Fortunately, the team is eager to master the offense and provide a lethal attack.

“Our team really is coming along, and we will be that program that turns it all around that everyone wants to watch,” Klostermann said. “It’s just a matter of time and dedication, and our coaches are putting us on the right track.”

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

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