No Room For Mediocrity

Nov. 14, 2006

Less than two years ago, Emily Hiza took over as the Hawkeye’s starting libero in her freshman year. She came in with an attitude of trying to be the best and making sure others are striving for their best. It’s an attitude Head Coach Cindy Fredrick loves.

While Fredrick was at Washington State, she had recruited Hiza, but after she took over as Iowa’s head coach, she wanted her to come to Iowa because of what she saw from her as a both a player and a person. Even though schools didn’t usually scholarship liberos for all four years, Fredrick felt that it was worth doing.

After seeing her in club competition, she felt that Hiza was one of the best liberos out there. At first, Hiza wasn’t sure about Iowa, but after her visit she loved it and wanted to be a Hawkeye. One thing that helped the decision was the coaches had her same ideals when it came to work ethic on and off the court. As a co-captain this season, she makes sure that everyone adheres to those ideals.

“I don’t accept mediocrity from myself or anyone on the team,” said Hiza. “I never let anyone slack off.”

She’s always there to motivate her teammates, even if that requires yelling. She takes her captain duties very serious because it’s who she is. She has to be in charge.

“You can’t be everybody’s best friend, especially as a captain. You have to create confrontations when people aren’t playing to their potential and not living up to expectations,” said Hiza.

That attitude has been one of Hiza’s biggest strengths, but at times it has also been a weakness. Occasionally last year, Fredrick said Hiza would get a glassy-eyed look during matches. She knew she was in trouble. The intensity she has was taken to an extreme and the coaches would have to reel her in a bit. Whenever Fredrick reads about Iowa quarterback, Drew Tate, she can only think of Hiza. The two have similar competitive nature, which at times, can get them into trouble.

“She’s very demanding,” said Fredrick. “She’s very outspoken. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks and she can sometimes be volatile, which is not always bad. But sometimes she needs a little bit of softening.”

She has a very aggressive personality which shows on the court. Before she really became a libero during her senior year, she was a middle hitter. She was practically forced into the position because of her 5-foot-7-inch frame. Her club coach was the first to tell her that if she wanted to play at the next level, she would have to move to libero. The fighter in her wanted to deny it. Eventually she realized that she wasn’t a threat as a hitter.

It was one of the hardest transitions she’s had to make. After she does something good, she knows that her job still isn’t done. Not being able to celebrate those good plays took some getting used to. As a hitter, people notice the big blocks and kills, but digs are seen as the dirty work. Even without as much recognition for the big play, Hiza loves being a libero, but there will still always be a hitter inside of her.

“Part of me always wants to be a hitter,” said Hiza. “I’m super aggressive and being a defensive specialist you have to be aggressive, but it has to be more passive.”

Last season she got the opportunity to start one match at outside hitter. She remembers calling her club coach and telling him because he was the person who told her that she wasn’t big enough. She wanted to rub it in his face. During the game she also got to play against the rightside hitter from her former club which made her even more excited. It’s not everyday that someone her size gets to hit.

Although the position lacks some of the aggressive qualities, she still finds it more exciting to get a big dig rather than a kill. Kills are frequent, but getting a few digs on one player can get into their head. Hiza loves seeing their frustration, especially when that results in the opposition making mistakes and hitting the ball out of bounds.

Whatever she does, she will inevitably find both excitement and success. She began swimming at the age of four and in 2002 and 2003 qualified for state in four events. Her attitude will never let her accept anything but success.

Even academically, she challenges not only herself, but her teammates. When the team was deciding on their goals for the year, Hiza thought everyone should have a 3.0 GPA. Fredrick likes that philosophy.

For herself though, a 3.0 isn’t enough. In high school she took college courses her last two years and never got anything less than an A. Last year, she got the first B of her life, yet has still worked hard enough to maintain a 4.0. She does claim that it can be time consuming, but is hoping that like everything else she does, she will reap the benefits in the end.

By Josh Mitchell – Iowa Sports Information