Olympic Sports Spotlight 9/20: Volleyball

By erut17 on September 20, 2022 at 1:11 pm
go hawks go
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

You know what's great about volleyball? There are no 95 degrees, 80% humidity games. No foot of snow and frozen turf. Most importantly, no seven-hour games because there's a never-ending rainstorm that seems to send lightning exactly once every thirty minutes (maybe that one's a bit far-fetched...).

Volleyball is always 72 and sunny. At worst, there's a bit of a draft in the arena, but that only makes the float serves even more floaty. Think about it the next time your kid tells you she wants to play soccer or run cross country. 

This Week's Spotlight: Iowa Volleyball

Iowa volleyball hosted the Hawkeye Invitational last weekend and racked up three wins without dropping a set in their first home matches of the year. The Hawks got the party started on Friday with a pair of wins against South Dakota State and North Florida. Michelle Urqhardt was a key cog in both wins, notching seven digs in the first match and eleven kills in the second. The Hawks showed they could dominate and they could fight. Each match featured a set the Hawks won by at least ten points and multiple sets that the Hawks won by three or fewer.

Iowa followed up the successful Friday doubleheader with a sweep of UNI on Saturday. The Hawks blew out UNI 25-17 and 25-16 in the first two sets and then pulled out a tense 25-23 win to complete the sweep.

The competition certainly wasn't at the same level the Hawkeyes will see as they get into the gauntlet of Big Ten play, but don't discount the value of three three-set wins, especially for a new roster. The group right now is a mix of holdovers from the last coaching regime and transfers that new coach Jim Barnes was able to recruit over his first summer in town. It's a mix of experience and a team looking to set a foundation and a culture for the future.

The holdovers include young recruits like sophomore outside hitter Addie VanderWiede and veterans like senior middle Amiya Jones. Jones has been a staple in the middle of the Iowa lineup since she stepped on campus in 2018, starting all 31 matches as a freshman. She's provided a stable, productive presence and took home MVP awards at last weekend's invitational. VanderWiede represents the team's buy-in into Coach Barnes' new philosophy. Coming off a successful freshman year, no one would have held it against her if she chose to chase greener pastures. Instead, she stuck around and helped to get the transfers acclimated and settled on campus.

Last year, the Hawkeyes struggled to bounce back when teams went on a run against them. They could hang for most of a set, but seemed to inevitably give up a five or six-point run that proved too much to overcome. Already this year, the Hawks have shown a new resilience. They won five close sets over the weekend over the three matches, including overcoming a 16-20 hole against North Florida in the decisive third set. Against UNI, the third set was tied at 17 before Iowa went on a 5-0 run of their own to pull away and win the set. Volleyball is a game of runs by nature, but Iowa is already showing this year that they can string some of those big runs together and keep opponents from doing the same. It's a mental victory, that at least for now, is coinciding with actual victories too. 

The goal for the Hawkeyes should be to play close sets, and steal as many as they can against the top of a stacked Big Ten conference. The key stat to watch is hitting percentage. Can Iowa generate offense and can they keep opposing offenses in check? If they can, we'll see them hang with most of the conference and even steal a set or two against some of the conference's best. It's going to take time to get the program where Coach Barnes believes it can go, but a perfect weekend is a good sign that the Hawks are headed in the right direction.

Honorable Mention

The Hawkeye field hockey team continued their strong start to the season, thrashing Indiana in a 5-1 win. Everything we said about the Hawkeye field hockey squad held true again last week and the Hoosiers had no answer for the suffocating defense and relentless attack of the Hawks. They've got a huge match against #1 Northwestern, a team that beat them twice last year, this coming Friday (3 PM CT, BTN). It's going to be an awesome match and if you have a chance, I highly recommend tuning in.

Hawkeye Whiparound

  • The women's cross country team finished 6th last weekend at the Redbird Invite, while the men's team finished 7th. The Hawks used the meet as an opportunity to get some of their younger runners some experience and continue to make strides as they prep for the Big Ten Championships. They'll take part in the Gans Creek Classic on September 30.
  • The Iowa women's golf team finished 15th at last week's event, led by Paula Miranda who finished 23rd. The Hawks are back in action this week in Wisconsin as part of the Badger Invitational.
  • Hawkeye soccer dropped their match against Wisconsin last weekend, falling 3-1. Iowa jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the 6th minute, but three Badger goals in the first ten minutes of the second half proved too much to overcome. The Hawks will take on Michigan State next on September 22nd.
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