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Iowa’s emerging young core goes for four

BY KYLE MANN | NOVEMBER 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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When No. 12 Purdue arrives in Iowa City for a Saturday match against the Iowa volleyball team, it will run into a young corps of Hawkeye hitters who are beginning to surge.

In recent weeks, Iowa fans have begun to see glimpses of how versatile and dangerous head coach Bond Shymansky’s offense could become with a talented variety of imposing attackers.

Outside hitter Lauren Brobst has had a breakout sophomore campaign, and took the team lead in kills several weeks ago. She has registered 3.16 kills per set in Big Ten play and has been the Hawkeyes’ lead attacker on a relatively consistent basis.

On some occasions, however, Brobst would be stymied by the opponent, and the offense became stagnant. Early in the conference season, Shymansky praised his hitter for her performance, but he needed other players to step up.

“It makes things a lot easier for our middles, and it makes things a lot easier for people like Lauren Brobst to get good swings when she has somebody on the opposite side of the net that’s bringing offense,” Shymansky said.

With such a young team, it was really only a matter of time. The reinforcements have arrived in recent weeks for Shymansky, and with them, a spike in competiveness on the floor.

On Oct. 18, the Hawkeyes claimed their first conference victory over No. 24 Northwestern, and that was largely in part due to an explosive performance from freshman Jess Janota.

Brobst led the team with 20 kills on the night, but Janota sparked several runs and had several clutch kills on her way to a career-high 16 kills, including the match winner.

Brobst is a big beneficiary when other players can play well, but she says the ability to spread out the attack makes the offense better as a whole.

“It really opens up the offense,” Brobst said. “We can all play as a team, and it doesn’t just come from the hitters. It starts with the pass, which opens up doors for the hitters to be able to terminate.”

In addition to Janota, Iowa has seen another freshman step in as a contributor on a more consistent basis. Taylin Alm is fifth on the team with 106 kills and 1.63 per set, and she has been one of its most dangerous attackers over the last several matches.

The 6-5 Alm had 8 kills in the upset over Northwestern after a career-high 9 in a near-upset over Illinois a few days earlier. She then tied that mark in a sweep over Maryland on Oct. 31, only to surpass it with 11 in a victory against Rutgers the following night.

In Wednesday’s victory over Indiana, Brobst led with 13 kills. Alessandra Dietz was next with 12, while Alm had 10 and Janota had 7.

Alm’s emergence gives Shymansky four to five strong hitters on a given night, and the players have become more competitive as his — and their — confidence has grown.

“The offense is really dangerous,” Alm said. “With Brobst on the outside, and Jess and I on the right side, if the passes are good, we can be unstoppable.”

It’s a promising young corps for Shymansky and the Hawkeyes. Fans knew it was coming and were eager to see it mesh.

“It’s for sure that we’re going to have a very young, very talented but also very experienced team in a hurry,” Shymansky said. “That bodes well for the future of our program.”

The Hawks will have first serve at 7 p.m. Saturday, chasing their first five-win Big Ten season since 2009.

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


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