Aug. 20, 2009
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by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa volleyball head coach Sharon Dingman may be in just her second season with the Hawkeyes, but she believes the team has already earned respect in the state, the conference, and the country.
In typical fashion, the UI head coach was calm and collected Wednesday afternoon during media day inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, cracking jokes, and expressing how much the Hawkeyes progressed a year ago.
Regardless of sport, it is tough stepping in as a first-year Big Ten head coach, but Dingman was not rattled because she comes from several successful programs around the nation.
Dingman has coached 18 seasons for four different schools and has only three losing seasons during that span. During Dingman’s first season holding the reigns of the Hawkeyes, they went 14-18 overall and 6-14 in conference play. From the naked eye it may not look like a successful season, but the previous Iowa team went 9-22 overall and 1-19 in the conference.
“We have seen the most success that this program has had since 2000,” Dingman said. “I think we are garnering respect every time we step out on the floor and I think the Big Ten sees that and understands that. We have to keep doing the right things and win matches — that is the easiest way to get the respect that we want in the state, across the country, and in the Big Ten. I think we are well on our way.”
A 5-win improvement is a step in the right direction and with one year under her belt, Dingman knows what to expect from her players and Big Ten competition this season.
“I like where we are right now. We are playing some good volleyball,” Dingman said. “They have known us now for a year and we have known them for a year, so we have a clear expectation of their abilities and they have a clear expectation of our expectations.”
The Hawkeyes have a daunting task of trying to replace four seniors. Megan Schipper and Christina Meister are the only two seniors on the team this season. Schipper is determined to instill all of the values to her teammates that she learned from the previous upperclass leaders.
“Those four seniors that left were amazing players,” Shipper said. “They had amazing attitudes and were very fun to be around. Christina and I are the only seniors this year, so we have a lot of ground to cover and attitudes and things to carry along that the seniors left behind for us.”
The bar was set high for the Hawkeyes this season. The goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top-six of the Big Ten. Iowa knows that does not just come over night, it is going to take hard work and perseverance.
“We need to break down everything in practice,” Schipper said. “Right now we have been working on a lot of defense because we are a smaller team and ball handling is very important. Breaking down everything in small steps and having little goals will get us there.”
Dingman brings not only a history of winning to the Iowa program, but has a more loose and comfortable environment in the gym because chemistry on a team is an important step to win.
“She (coach Dingman) has improved the gym atmosphere so much and it is a lot of fun to be around,” Schipper said. “It is fun to come into practice now and be able to be with your teammates and know you are improving every day.”
The Hawkeyes have the chemistry down and know that small goals along the way will help them take an even bigger step in garnering national respect.