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Iowa's Annika Olsen enjoys libero role

Hawkeye senior has started every set for 2 years

Iowa defensive specialist Annika Olsen (9) digs during the second set of a Big Ten Conference volleyball match at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City earlier this month. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa defensive specialist Annika Olsen (9) digs during the second set of a Big Ten Conference volleyball match at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City earlier this month. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When Annika Olsen hits a volleyball, it’s seldom to make a point.

It’s to keep the point going.

As libero, Olsen leads the Iowa volleyball team in digs, but hardly ever gets the glory of a kill. She starts the points by passing to her teammates and keeps the point going by playing defense.

“It’s not an easy job,” Olsen said.

Olsen didn’t always play libero. She started off as an outside hitter in high school, where she was named a 2012 16-under AAU All-American. She traveled with a 15-person team to Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai for 10 days to compete against elite Chinese volleyball teams.

It wasn’t until her senior year when she earned the libero position. But she always knew she wanted to be a libero.

“I was too short to be a hitter at the highest level,” Olsen said. “So I went through the recruiting process as a libero.”

A Georgia native, Olsen started her college volleyball career as a libero at Georgia Tech her freshman year. But after just one season, she transferred to Iowa. She wanted to be on a team where she could make an immediate impact and play at the Big Ten level.

“She instantly earned the starting lineup libero spot,” Coach Bond Shymansky said.

Olsen came to Iowa ready to play with collegiate experience underneath her belt. Shymansky said it was apparent she had the athleticism, grit and the defensive mentality to be a starting libero for Iowa.

“She’s quick on her feet, and she’s makes good moral and social decisions,” Shymansky said.

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A tremendous leader and team captain, Olsen has made a strong impact on the team. She’s started every match and appeared in every set for two consecutive seasons. She led the team in 2016 with 445 digs and leads this year’s team with 320.

“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Olsen said.

Olsen qualified to play for the USA A2 team and also went on a Big Ten tour.

“It opened my eyes to the world of international volleyball,” Olsen said.

But Olsen will end her volleyball career as a Hawkeye. She is getting married this summer and will not pursue any professionally opportunities.

“I am ready to move onto a new stage of my life,” she said.

The Hawkeyes (14-7, 3-5) host Illinois (15-4, 6-2) on Friday and Northwestern (12-8, 2-6) on Saturday. Both matches start at 7 p.m.

l Comments: taylor.limas@thegazette.com

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