24: Schipper thrives on `relaxed intensity'

Aug. 20, 2009

24 Hawkeyes to Watch: M. Schipper

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, Aug. 12, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2009-10 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Sharon Dingman arrived at the University of Iowa a year ago as head volleyball coach, she and her staff brought a unique style that Hawkeye senior Megan Schipper calls `relaxed intensity.’

That was a welcomed approach for Schipper, who, along with the rest of the Hawkeyes, 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, marking only the fifth time in school history that a Hawkeye team started 2-0 in Big Ten play.

“Coach does a really good job of having a relaxed intensity,” Schipper said. “Every day in practice it was relaxed and not too stressful, but at the same time it was pushing us. Coach also did a really good job of just letting us be us and not putting too many rules or restrictions on us — letting us play how we wanted to play.”

The result was an overall record of 14-18 and a 6-14 record in the Big Ten Conference. Iowa snapped 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 on Oct. 26. Iowa’s upset win over the Badgers also snapped a 26-match losing streak against Wisconsin, dating back to 1994.

“Being able to stop those losing streaks and start winning streaks was an amazing thing to be a part of,” Schipper said. “Helping last year’s seniors reach their goals was awesome for me and the rest of the team to be able to do.”

The presence of Schipper made Dingman’s transition to the UI and the Big Ten Conference easier.

“First, Megan is a really good volleyball player,” Dingman said. “She’s an athlete that certainly should be and can play in the Big Ten and has proven that in her time at Iowa. As a new coach and a new staff, we came in here and saw somebody so dedicated and making herself better every day. It’s fun to go to the gym every day and coach Megan. Her commitment to this program is really, really tremendous. You can’t help but appreciate everything she brings to our program and the athletic department.”

“Coach does a really good job of having a relaxed intensity. Every day in practice it was relaxed and not too stressful, but at the same time it was pushing us. Coach also did a really good job of just letting us be us and not putting too many rules or restrictions on us — letting us play how we wanted to play.”
UI senior outside hitter
Megan Schipper

Schipper is an outside hitter from Aplington, Iowa. She helped lead Aplington-Parkersburg to the 2005 Class 2A state championship and was named to the all-tournament team as well as being the Class 2A Player of the Year. An outside hitter, as a collegiate junior, Schipper was second on the Hawkeye team with 345 kills (3.00 kills per set), 958 attack attempts, 24 ace serves and 405 points. She was third on the team with 219 digs.

Individual numbers are not important to Schipper. Intangibles are.

“The coaches have a lot of trust in me to be a leader on the court, so I want to continue to be a physical presence as well as the emotional and mental presence,” Schipper said. “I want to be the leader on the court. Being there for my team at all times — not necessarily being the one that puts the last ball down on the court — and letting them know that they can come to me and trust in me as a leader is very important.”

“The first thing I think about Megan is her work ethic,” Dingman said. “She does not stop working to get better, she doesn’t stop pushing her teammates to get better in every aspect, whether it’s in the weight room or she’s conditioning or playing volleyball. She’s all-out, all of the time. Along with that is the leadership that comes with being such a hard worker.”

Last season Iowa bolted to a 10-4 start and winning produced large and electric crowds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa averaged 1,146 fans per match and five of the 10 largest crowds in UI volleyball history were present in 2008, including the second-largest crowd in school history (1,746 against Michigan State Oct. 18). Iowa had a winning record inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena (7-6) for the first time since 1998.

“It was amazing having all those people come,” Schipper said. “Having those crowds is absolutely wonderful. This year I expect it to increase even more. Our team and our success-levels are going to increase a lot, so I expect the fan base to increase as well.”

The returning Hawkeyes got a leg up on preparation by attending four tournaments in the spring. That court experience will help offset the graduation losses of four seniors, who averaged playing nearly 114 sets in 2008.

“We had a lot of people playing positions that they hadn’t played before,” Schipper said. “We did lose four seniors who had been playing positions for four years. People stepped up in the spring and took the specific roles they needed to and it went really well. The people who came in weren’t thrown into intense, stressful situations. You get to know your position and fill your role appropriately before you have to play all those Big Ten teams.”

The fact Dingman and her staff are beginning their second season is another reason for optimism. Schipper said the team enjoys the coaching staff’s fresh views and trust.

“The coaches know what they’re doing and we completely trust them,” Schipper said. “We’ll keep moving forward and continue to climb. We’re going to continue to work hard and now we know what the coaches expect out of us and what we expect out of them. The communication improves all the time. Being able to go into practice knowing what the coaches want from us every day helps a lot.”

Schipper will graduate in May, 2010, with a degree in health promotion. She might attend graduate school, possibly for exercise science, to become a personal trainer. After years of assisting at volleyball camps, Schipper said that she is leaning toward becoming a coach. But for the two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, another season on the court awaits.

“I’m very excited,” Schipper said. “It’s my last fall and I can’t wait to get started. Staying optimistic is the key to our success this fall.”

Iowa’s 32-match regular-season schedule includes 13 home contests and 11 matches against NCAA tournament qualifiers, including defending national champion Penn State. The Hawkeyes open the season Aug. 28-29 at the Loyola Invitational in Chicago.

Schipper’s Career Statistics

2006 31 88 189 107 648 .127 7 7 86 2 39
2007 29 100 309 139 872 .195 10 15 140 10 62
2008 32 115 345 142 958 .212 15 24 219 8 56
Totals 92 303 843 388 2478 .184 32 46 445 20 157