Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa volleyball 'has some solidarity moving forward' as rugged Big Ten schedule heats up

Hawkeyes lose in 4 sets to No. 7 Minnesota in first home match since Vicki Brown was named permanent head coach

IOWA CITY — After a tumultuous five months, the University of Iowa volleyball team has some certainty at its coaching position.

Last Thursday, the Iowa Athletics Department removed the interim status from Coach Vicki Brown and named her the permanent head coach.

The announcement arrived just in time for the gauntlet that is the Big Ten schedule.

“I think the right word is, ‘shocked,’” Brown said after No. 7 Minnesota defeated the Hawkeyes, 18-25, 25-21, 25-18, 30-28, in a Big Ten Conference volleyball match before 1,205 fans Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Not because of getting it, but just more of when in the season I got it. … I am very appreciative of (Iowa Athletics Director) Gary Barta and (Deputy Director of Athletics) Barbara Burke of just the support. It is something to say it, but then it says a lot more when they have action behind it.”

Wednesday night was the first home match for Iowa since the coaching decision was finalized. Brown was an Iowa assistant for two years under Bond Shymansky, who was suspended in May and later fired after five seasons once the university learned he broke an NCAA rule by “providing an impermissible benefit” to a student-athlete.

A portion of Brown’s duties as an Iowa assistant including leading the recruiting effort, which resulted in a program-best No. 24 ranking for the 2019 class. After agreeing in principle to a new five-year contract, Brown can now walk into a recruit’s home and pitch a program that is settled at the coaching position.

“I know our recruits coming in are excited,” Brown said. “We can project into the future a little bit more and that definitely helps ease the minds of parents. … That allows us to compete within the Big Ten recruiting.”

Iowa (7-7, 1-2 Big Ten) has lost four of its last five matches, but is the first team to win a set against the Gophers (9-2, 3-0) since Sept. 14. The Hawkeyes got within a point midway through the second and third sets and led for much of Set 4, but were turned away each time by the Gophers.

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Junior outside hitter Griere Hughes led Iowa with 22 kills, while 6-foot-5 sophomore setter Courtney Buzzerio added 14. Junior setter Brie Orr was within one of a career high with 16 digs, while freshman outside hitter and Germany native Edina Schmidt achieved her own career plateau with 14 kills.

Iowa travels to No. 5 Penn State this Saturday. The Nittany Lions will be the third of four consecutive Iowa opponents that are ranked or receiving votes in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings. The Hawkeyes will also close the regular season with eight such opponents in their final 12 matches.

“Moving forward, it is about every day, every week we should feel like there is a progression,” Brown said. “Through that progression, if we are this close and we are getting better each week, then we are that close to finishing those sets. We are that close to finishing the match. As long as we are keeping on that trend, that is our main priority.”

Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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