Beginning of the end as Iowa volleyball travels to Northwestern

BY KYLE MANN | NOVEMBER 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Despite being in the midst of a three-game skid, the Iowa volleyball players have their heads high and eyes forward as they travel to Northwestern for their third-to-last match of the season this weekend.

Iowa’s consecutive defeats have all come at the hands of ranked opponents, two of which were ranked in the top 10. The team, predictably, has struggled this season when facing ranked opponents (2-9 versus top-25 teams), but the tail end of the schedule will present a string of very winnable matches, and that will begin with the Wildcats on Saturday.

Iowa can be confident it is good enough to compete in this matchup, given that the first meeting between the schools resulted in Iowa up-ending the then-No. 24 team in the nation in a five-set thriller on Oct. 18.

Though they came out on top last time, the Hawkeyes enter this weekend’s match seeing a favorable matchup, but they are approaching with caution.

“It’ll be nice knowing that we already beat them, but that really doesn’t mean anything,” Alyssa Klostermann said. “It’s at their place, and I’m sure they’ll be excited to play us again. Like us, they’re not the tallest but they’re very versatile, so it’ll come down to the scouting report and how we prepare ourselves. It should be a close game and a hard-fought one.”

The Oct. 18 match was closely contested, but the difference in the end was that it was the first time this season that Bond Shymansky’s offense was both explosive and diversified. Lauren Brobst reached 20 kills that night, and that was complemented by Jess Janota’s 16 and by Alessandra Dietz’s 11.

The offense has made significant strides as far as finding contributions from around the floor, particularly since the upset over Northwestern, but has been somewhat stymied by the competition in recent matches. Shymansky said that in order to finish the season strong, his team must find a final shot of competitiveness to match that of other teams fighting for position in the standings.

“The rest of our matches we feel like are going to be knock-down, drag-out matches. Northwestern is fighting for its life for tournament berth, Maryland will want to come and beat us because we beat it, and Michigan State is fighting for a tournament berth,” Shymansky said. “So we’re going to face a lot of desperation and hunger across the net, and we’ve got to be able to match that.”

Luckily, one of the main characteristics of his players Shymansky has been so impressed with is the development of their “competitive character,” as he has called it. With the season winding down and the Hawkeyes not challenging for any postseason accolades, don’t be surprised to see an eager and energized team step on the floor ready to take care of business.

“We have good matches coming up that are going to be tough, like every match in the Big Ten, but our mindset is that we’re going to do whatever we need to in film or in practice and that we’re going to win,” Dietz said. “If everyone does her job and we play together, we’ll have a good chance.”

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

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