116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — A 6-foot-5 setter? Courtney Buzzerio filled that role, and many others, for the University of Iowa volleyball team last season.
“It opened some eyes of what I could do,” she said. “Everywhere I looked, I could find shots. I got more comfortable and expanded my game a little bit.”
A little bit? Buzzerio averaged 2.49 kills, 4.36 assists and 1.72 digs last spring. That versatility landed her on the Big Ten’s first-team all-conference unit, the first Hawkeye to be so honored since 2001.
She’s about to get her load lightened for her senior season. She will remain on the floor as a six-rotation player, but the setting duties will be dispersed elsewhere.
“Now we have two setters, so our need for Courtney is as a hitter only,” Coach Vicki Brown said Thursday at the Hawkeyes’ media day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes are only a few months removed from their spring schedule, moved from last fall due to COVID-19. They finished 4-16 in a grueling Big Ten-only campaign.
So the riddle remains the same as it has for a long time: How can the Hawkeyes gain traction in the Big Ten? Six teams are ranked in the top 12 in the preseason national rankings.
Iowa’s last winning season in the conference was in 2000. Its previous NCAA tournament appearance? 1994.
“I’ve always had the goal to make the tournament. I think that’s attainable,” Buzzerio said. “I think we have a high ceiling.”
The Hawkeyes do have experience. And they do have depth. Fifteen letterwinners return, and two transfers have added — Mari Hinkle from UCLA and Kacia Brown (formerly of Cedar Falls) from Mississippi State.
“I wanted to play in the Big Ten really bad, and this was closer to home,” said Hinkle, a Minnesota native. “There are more opportunities for me here. I think I can bring a lot of competitiveness and positive energy.”
Brown is one of five Iowans on the roster. Bailey Ortega (Davenport North) led the team in assists (5.23 per set) last year as a freshman. Maddie Slagle (Cedar Rapids Jefferson), now a senior, is the leader among returners in digs, at 1.73 per set.
“Leadership roles are up for grabs,” Slagle said. “As a senior, I have to lead more.”
Other returning attackers, in addition to Buzzerio, include junior Edina Schmidt and senior Hannah Clayton.
“Just about everybody is returning, and that makes it easier. I have trust in everybody that we put in there,” Ortega said. “We have all the confidence in the world.”
The Hawkeyes will be playing their second season at Xtream Arena in Coralville. And this year, they’ll most likely be playing in front of fans in the 5,100-seat facility.
They plan to be worth the admission.
“We want to show people we can make strides than nobody thought was possible,” Ortega said.
Coach: Vicki Brown (3rd season, 14-37)
Last year (spring 2021): 4-16 overall, 4-16 Big Ten (T-12th)
Top returners: Courtney Buzzerio, Edina Schmidt, Hannah Clayton, Bailey Ortega
Schedule highlights: Aug. 28 — Duke & Coastal Carolina (at Conway S.C.), Sept 9. — Syracuse, Sept. 11 — Iowa State, Sept. 22 — Illinois, Oct. 20 — Nebraska, Nov. 6 — Wisconsin, Nov. 11 — Minnesota