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Iowa embracing inaugural travel week to Maryland, Rutgers

BY KYLE MANN | OCTOBER 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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When the Iowa volleyball team hits the road this weekend, it will be setting out on the program’s inaugural voyage to Maryland and New Jersey for Big Ten contests. As a first for the school, it will also seem a peculiar road trip to some Hawkeyes who have been around for a while.

Prior to Maryland and Rutgers joining the Big Ten, the only member of the conference requiring travel to east of Ohio was Penn State. So it’s not that Midwestern schools aren’t accustomed to making the trip, but now the frequency of those trips will triple, theoretically.

With two members so far from the others, the way the schedule was constructed limits the amount of actual extra travel required for the team. By scheduling the schools back-to-back, Iowa will only make the trip once.

And that’s not only good for travel costs, having Friday/Saturday matches also spares the Hawkeyes from a Wednesday/Saturday week, which Bond Shymanksy says is to his advantage.

“We actually like a week when we have the entire week to prepare, playing Friday and Saturday,” Shymansky said. “It’s given us three really strong days of training, which has been pretty rare this time of year.”

In fact, given that additional intense practice time, a road trip that could be seen as a nuisance travel-wise in some ways becomes a bittersweet moment in the season.

“It’s the last week in the season that we’ll get three days in a row to train,” Shymansky said. “So we’re making the most of it right now and making sure we get some improvement out of it.”

After the week of practice, the Hawkeyes will be eager to get on their way to meet the newest universities of the Big Ten.

The Terrapins and Scarlet Knights will offer not only new opponents, but the schools, towns, and travel itself will present a new experience to the Hawkeyes and other Big Ten schools or players that have never been there.

“It’s definitely different. We haven’t even done the travel before, so I can’t tell you how it is,” junior Julianne Blomberg said. “It should be exciting just to see the new teams and stadiums; I’m excited to go out there.”

In a year that saw the Hawkeyes bring in six newcomers, a new coaching staff, and is largely about turning over a new leaf, it only seems fitting the returning players encounter yet another new experience.

So are Maryland and Rutgers, however, and the Hawkeyes want to use that to their advantage.

“It’s new, and it’s different especially for the returning players,” senior Kari Mueller said. “But I think it’s really exciting to have new competition. There’s nothing better than going out and playing against someone who there’s no preconceived notions for.”

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


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