Aug. 19, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Undersized? Of course. Overmatched? Forget about it.
When Sharon Dingman delivered her second preseason media day conference as the University of Iowa head volleyball coach inside the Carver-Hawkeye Arena press room, she agreed that the Hawkeyes will be much smaller across the board than the majority of their Big Ten Conference opponents. Haven’t you heard that good things come in small packages?
“We certainly are undersized,” Dingman said. “We understand that we need to be the most-fit team in the conference. We’re going to have to make rallies go a long time. We’re not built to be a first-ball kill team, so we’re going to dig and we’re going to dig and we’re going to dig and we’re going to dig some more. We’re going to have great ball control and we’re going to be very, very good on defense.”
Iowa was 14-18 overall, 6-14 in the Big Ten a year ago — Dingman’s first as head coach of the Hawkeyes. Dingman cautioned that Iowa `isn’t quite ready yet’ for the season-opener, but she did throw out a few names of those who have shined so far in the preseason.
“Megan Schipper’s going to be on the floor,” Dingman said of the senior captain from Aplington, Iowa. “She’s had a great camp and a great spring. She’s matured in a leadership role and she’s matured as an outside hitter. We expect some tremendous things from Megan this season.”
Last season Schipper was second on the team with 345 kills (3.00 per game) and 24 ace serves.
Dingman also handed out an unofficial Perseverance Award to redshirt junior middle blocker Becky Walters of Parkersburg, Iowa. Walters was limited to 32 sets in 2008 before tearing an ACL for the second time in her career.
“I don’t know in 25 years if I’ve ever coached a player with the perseverance that Becky Walters has shown,” Dingman said. “Two ACLs and this summer she had a fairly serious health scare. She just keeps coming back. We walk off a plane or a bus and Becky (at 6-foot-3) looks like the rest of the Big Ten looks.”
Dingman commended sophomore middle blocker Mallory Husz of Council Bluffs, Iowa, for having a `tremendous camp.’ Last season Husz played in 17 matches, compiling 40 kills, 19 block assists and seven digs.
Another Hawkeye to keep an eye on is junior Aimee Huffman from Poth, Texas. In two seasons at Iowa, Huffman has averaged more than 202 kills per year. As a sophomore she had 213 kills, 114 digs, five block solos and 58 block assists.
“We certainly are undersized. We understand that we need to be the most-fit team in the conference. We’re going to have to make rallies go a long time. We’re not built to be a first-ball kill team, so we’re going to dig and we’re going to dig and we’re going to dig and we’re going to dig some more. We’re going to have great ball control and we’re going to be very, very good on defense.”
UI head volleyball coach Sharon Dingman
“The last couple days Aimee has shown everything we’ve expected of her,” Dingman said. “She can play at a very high level.”
Competition is strong and healthy at libero and setter. The three leading candidates at defensive specialist are senior Christina Meister, junior Katie Wessels and junior Signe Mueller. Dingman said that whoever earns that spot will exhibit the most consistency in passing and digging. The setter position is between junior Mara Hilgenberg and sophomore Paige Stevens.
“That is still up in the air,” Dingman said. “Maybe it means we run a 6-2.”
Dingman and her staff of assistant coaches Jason Allen and Ben Boldt have brought an expect to win attitude to the Hawkeye program. Iowa will feature a faster, more athletic team than the one that took the floor in 2008.
“I love our speed on the court,” Dingman said. “Our fitness is going to really play heavily in our success. Now our players have an expectation of winning in the Big Ten.”
Iowa’s four-member freshman class includes two student-athletes from the state of Illinois and two home-grown Iowa products. One of the biggest surprises, according to Dingman, is Emma Krieger-Kittle, from Iowa City West,
“She’s surpassed our expectations of her volleyball ability,” Dingman said. “We knew she was a great athlete, but she has been our most pleasant surprise.”
Iowa opens the season Friday, Aug. 28, at Loyola-Chicago. The following day the Hawkeyes take the court against Marquette and Eastern Kentucky. The first home match will be Friday, Sept. 11, against Iowa State.
“There’s a lot of good buzz out there about us,” Dingman said. “We’re garnering respect every time we step on the floor. We have to win matches — that’s the easiest way to get the respect we want in the state, across the country and in the Big Ten. I think we’re well on our way.”