Iowa volleyball drops weekend matches in Michigan

BY KYLE MANN | OCTOBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa volleyball team boarded the bus to Michigan over the weekend and dropped two matches to Michigan and Michigan State. Both defeats came in straight sets.

After starting the season 8-2, this weekend makes seven consecutive losses and drops Iowa below .500 for the first time since being 0-1 to begin the season. The team is now 8-9, 0-6 in the Big Ten.

Despite the skid, Bond Shymansky says the energy and motivation that was so apparent early in the season remains strong.

“It is for us,” Shymanksy said. “This is so much like a blink of an eye in the lifespan of an entire program.”

The Hawkeyes first met Michigan and a particularly boisterous home crowd on Oct. 10. Several errors early in the first set gave the Wolverines an early advantage, which they would never surrender. They won the set, 25-15.

The second set was pivotal, as Iowa made a comeback to tie at 17. The teams then battled back-and-forth before the Hawkeyes eventually dropped the set, 29-27.

Set three was closely contested in the early going, but Michigan largely controlled the set and completed the sweep with a 25-19 victory.

Sophomore Lauren Brobst continued her ascent as one of the team’s most dangerous attackers in the loss, logging a season-high 15 kills. Freshman Jess Janota followed with 10 kills of her own.

The current skid the team is on began with a loss to Iowa State in Ames, and it has continued with the arrival of conference play. No one on the team is comfortable with losing, but the Hawkeyes know they must increase their level of play drastically to match the talent of their in-conference opponents.

“The Big Ten is tough,” senior Alessandra Dietz said. “Starting off the Big Ten kind of rocky, not to say it doesn’t matter, but we’ve got a long way to go here.”

Oct. 11’s match versus Michigan State featured much of what led to the loss on Oct. 10. After committing 23 errors with a .132 hitting percentage, the Hawkeyes managed only a .173 hitting percentage compared with the Spartans’ .348.

As a result, the Spartans cruised handily to a 25-15 first set victory and followed that with a 25-17 victory in the second.

Iowa showed some fight in the third set, and led by Brobst and Alex Lovell, the Hawkeyes were able to come within 2 points late in the set, 20-18. Michigan State caught fire, however, and finished the sweep suddenly, 25-18.

Brobst again led the Hawkeye offense, registering 13 kills on a .444 hitting percentage. Lovell was second with 8.

This weekend was the second in a row featuring a shuffling of starting lineups as Shymansky searches for the lineup he feels is most effective.

Freshman Kaylee Smith held on to the starting setter position for the third and fourth matches in a row, along with senior Kari Mueller holding on to her position. The Oct. 10 match featured the starting début of Julianne Blomberg.

For the second weekend in a row, senior Alex Lovell was held out of the starting lineup, then reinserted on Oct. 11. Despite the uncertainty surrounding her starting status, Lovell is only concerned with the team’s improvement.

“Losses in a row isn’t something that would normally be exciting, and it’s not,” she said. “But it is exciting to realize we have so many more games to play and so much potential on this team we can really harness and take advantage of.”

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

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