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Blomberg’s development at the center of Iowa’s improvement

BY KYLE MANN | NOVEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Julianne Blomberg didn’t take the traditional path of a Division-I athlete, but the Iowa volleyball team couldn’t be happier with where it’s taken her.

Blomberg came to the Iowa program as a walk-on in the Sharon Dingman regime. She began her career as a front-row player, but in her short time as a Hawkeye has shuffled around quite a bit.
“She used to play front row, then she went just to back row, and now she’s playing the front row again,” senior Alessandra Dietz said. “It’s awesome having her in there playing all the way around.”

Given her resulting versatility, Blomberg is the only six-rotation player for head coach Bond Shymansky’s team. Her rise to prominence for the Hawkeyes is, admittedly, a far cry from what Shymansky expected from the junior.

“We really cranked up the intensity on the whole team, but there were players such as Julianne who I wanted to know what more they could do,” Shymansky said. “I kept saying, ‘Can’t you do more than this? Don’t you have more to give than this or a bigger role to play than this?’ ”

It was a tumultuous transition period for the program coming under new leadership, and the team struggled both physically and emotionally as they prepared for the new season.

“There was a very apparent transition to a more competitive, hard-working atmosphere,” Blomberg said. “It was a tough spring. Every practice was kind of a test of what you can put yourself through and how hard you’re willing to work for everything.”

Shymansky knew he was putting his team through the rigorous course. He did it to set the tone for his new program and also to see how his inherited team would respond. To her credit, Blomberg impressed Shymansky in the off-season, and she has absolutely shocked him with her continued improvement as the season has progressed.

“There were some frustrating moments for her, and she really came out the other side of spring training, and I knew,” Shymanksy said. “I said, ‘OK, she’s got my respect. She’s going to be able to contribute something.’  I had no idea she’d contribute what she’s doing right now.”

Blomberg was injected into the starting lineup midway through the Big Ten season, and at the time, Shymansky said, it was to utilize her ball-control skills to help the team get into the system.

Blomberg has performed admirably in that regard, but the truly remarkable part of her season comes from the contributions she’s making all over the court.

She is second on the team with 2.26 digs per set, third with .22 service aces per set. She has grown significantly as an attacker, averaging 6.5 kills, 15 digs, and also contributed an average of 1 block over the team’s current four-match winning streak.

“Her passing confidence is way up, she’s jump-serving well, and her defense has become really exceptional. She’s long and athletic,” Shymansky said. “Most importantly, she’s hitting and blocking in the front row. She has really good technical components to her game.”

For his part, Shymansky, who’d once pegged Blomberg as a “fringe role player,” has learned a little something from the inspiring experience as well.

“It’s a great story that she keeps writing new chapters to. As a coach, it’s a great lesson to never write a player off,” Shymansky said. “But she’s a great lesson to every player in our program to always give it your all and strive to do more than you’re expected to.”

Blomberg has made great strides this season, and she credits Shymansky for not only her ascension but for the team’s improvement as a whole.

“He puts you through that, and it makes you commit,” Blomberg said. “It’s not him forcing you to work hard to get somewhere, it’s you choosing to work that hard because you want to get where he’s trying to push you toward.”

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


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