Dec. 11, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa – When Sharon Dingman was hired as Iowa’s new head volleyball coach last spring, she said her goal was to get Iowa back on the winning track. Dingman and her staff accomplished that goal and many others along the way during a successful first season in Black and Gold.
The Hawkeyes finished the 2008 season with a 14-18 overall record and ninth place in the Big Ten at 6-14. The six conference wins are the most for an Iowa team since 2000 and the ninth place finish marks the first time since 2000 that the Hawkeyes haven’t finished in one of the two bottom spots of the ultra-competitive Big Ten conference since 2000. The 14 overall wins are also tied for the most since the 2000 season.
“I was very pleased with our effort this season,” Dingman said. “We improved throughout the year and got better all the way through our last match. Some of our ultimate goals weren’t reached, but we are in a really good place and we are excited to build on a good first season.”
“I was very pleased with our effort this season. We improved throughout the year and got better all the way through our last match. Some of our ultimate goals weren’t reached, but we are in a really good place and we are excited to build on a good first season.”
Iowa snapped or set many streaks during Dingman’s successful first season. Iowa won seven-straight matches from Sept. 13-27, tying the fourth-longest winning streak in school history. The Hawkeyes also swept every opponent during the winning streak, taking 15-straight sets. That was the longest set-winning streak since 1990. Two of those victories were over 18th-ranked Wisconsin and Northwestern to open Big Ten play, marking only the fifth time in school history that a Hawkeye team started 2-0 in Big Ten play.
“Every set during that streak we gained confidence,” Dingman said. “We started rolling and knocked off some quality opponents. It was fun going into the locker room after those matches.”
Dingman helped Iowa snap a 39-match losing streak against Ohio State and an 18-match losing skid on the road in Big Ten play with a four-set win over the Buckeyes Oct. 26. Iowa’s upset win over No. 18 Wisconsin also snapped a 26-match losing streak against the Badgers, dating back to 1994.
“Some of those wins showed what type of talent we have here,” Dingman said. “That’s where we should be. We should be winning road games and beating teams in the Big Ten. The team believed those things. They responded to challenges we put in front of them all season long.”
Iowa’s five-set win over Northwestern Nov. 14 was one Dingman will remember. The Hawkeye victory marked Dingman’s 350th career win, and her record now stands at 350-229 in 18 seasons as a head coach.
“The way we won that match was so fun,” Dingman said. “It was a five-set, comeback win. Our team’s toughness showed that fifth set, and it was awesome to come away with the win. That was a true sign that we were growing as a team. I told them team after the match that I was so pleased to get No. 350 with them.”
“We lose four talented players that will be hard to replace, but we still have talent on this team. They know what our expectations are and are willing to work hard every day to meet those goals. There is excitement, both in the team and the surrounding communities about Iowa volleyball, and we need to capture that.
I wake up and go to bed every night knowing that Iowa volleyball is an NCAA Tournament program. That is our goal and it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. That will be a satisfying goal to accomplish.”
Winning also produced large and electric crowds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season. Iowa shattered its average attendance record in 2008, with an average of 1,146 fans coming to see the Black and Gold compete. Five of the 10 largest crowds in volleyball history were set in 2008, including the second-largest crowd in school history at 1,746 against Michigan State Oct. 18. Iowa also had a winning record inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time since 1998.
“The crowds were always the first thing the players mentioned after home matches,” Dingman said. “Everyone including the staff appreciated the type of energy our crowds brought night after night. I think people recognized how hard the team was playing and how much fun they were having, which in turn gets the crowd excited. We were competing hard every night and when the Carver-Hawkeye crowd gets into it, you definitely notice.”
Iowa’s four seniors, Catherine Smale, Kiley Fister, Emily Hiza and Laura Kremer, set personal and school record milestones as well. Smale became only the seventh player in school history to record both 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. She finished ranked eighth in career kills (1,315) and 13th in digs (1,073). Fister eclipsed the 4,000 career assist mark Oct. 18 against Michigan State and finished with the third-highest assist total in school history (4,424) and also ranks 13th in career service aces (96). Hiza came just two digs shy of tying Iowa’s career digs mark and ranks second all-time (1,929). Hiza also ranks 12th in service aces (97). Kremer finished her career ranked 11th in blocks at Iowa (284).
“Moving here to Iowa was kind of a risk for me,” Dingman said. “I was comfortable at Illinois State and had a good thing going there. When I took this job, the seniors instantly bought into what we as a staff were trying to accomplish. That really made the transition smooth. Those four seniors knew how to lead and did a tremendous job this season. They laid the foundation for a successful program in the future. We couldn’t have accomplished what we did this season without them.”
The Hawkeyes will look to add even more wins in 2009 and move higher up the Big Ten standings. Iowa returns 14 players for the 2009 season.
“We lose four talented players that will be hard to replace, but we still have talent on this team. They know what our expectations are and are willing to work hard every day to meet those goals. There is excitement, both in the team and the surrounding communities about Iowa volleyball, and we need to capture that. I wake up and go to bed every night knowing that Iowa volleyball is an NCAA Tournament program. That is our goal and it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. That will be a satisfying goal to accomplish.”