Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa volleyball splits first two Big Ten conference matches

After Friday sweep of Michigan State, Hawkeyes fall Sunday to No. 18 Michigan in 4 games

IOWA CITY — While the weekend brought mixed results on the scoreboard, the Iowa volleyball team received a valuable early snapshot of what is expected to be a daunting conference schedule.

Two days after sweeping a good Michigan State squad in their Big Ten Conference home opener, the Hawkeyes were dispatched by No. 18 Michigan in four games, 25-22, 28-30, 25-23, 25-22, in front of 1,611 fans on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“One of the things we’re seeing is that Big Ten opponents are going to scout you very meticulously,” fifth-year Iowa Coach Bond Shymansky said. “You have to really learn how to have a lot of different weapons. As an individual player, you have to learn how to do more than one thing. … You have to be a premium-focused athlete on day two in the Big Ten. Preparing all week long to play somebody on Friday gives you a lot of focused confidence, but then you have a quick turnaround to play the next match. That’s when you have to be really, really mentally tough.”

Each of the four games could have gone either way. In Game 1, Michigan broke a 21-21 tie with four of five points. After Iowa needed 30 points to even the match at a game apiece, the Wolverines responded to a 23-22 deficit in Game 3 by scoring the final three points. In the clinching fourth game, Michigan distanced itself from a slim 21-20 lead by scoring four of the final six points.

“Just weren’t consistent as a team,” said Iowa senior libero Molly Kelly, who prepped at West Liberty. “We had great moments, but we weren’t consistent throughout.”

Kelly led the Hawkeyes with 29 digs, while junior outside hitter Cali Hoye posted a match-high 22 kills. Preseason all-conference outside hitter Taylor Louis chipped in 13 kills off the bench, while freshman middle blocker Amiya Jones added 10.

The loss snapped a seven-match win streak for Iowa (9-4, 1-1 Big Ten), which will not return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena until Oct. 6 against sixth-ranked Wisconsin. Iowa will visit No. 8 Illinois this Friday, Northwestern on Sept. 30 and then tussle with defending national champion Nebraska on Oct. 3.

The Hawkeyes identified some clear takeaways from the opening weekend.

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“I think really paying attention to our scouting report more and actually using it,” said sophomore setter Brie Orr, who tallied 51 assists. “We knew what to do, but we didn’t exactly implement. We didn’t put it on them, so that’s on our part. We’re going to work a lot harder to use that against our opponents next week.”

Iowa is 7-3 away from home this season.

“We all just love to fight and get rowdy together,” Hoye said. “It’s fun being at home and having a home-court advantage, but also being away and having people yelling at us really fires us up.”

Sydney Wetterstrom led Michigan (12-1, 1-1) with 21 kills.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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