Sept. 5, 2009
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GREEN BAY, WI – The University of Iowa volleyball team defeated UW-Green Bay in straight sets to win the championship of the Country Inn and Suites Classic. Iowa’s win gave the Hawkeyes six wins to start the season, becoming only the third team in program history to start the season 6-0. The 1978 and 1988 Hawkeyes also started the season 6-0. No volleyball team in Iowa history has started the season 7-0.
“This feels really good,” said Head Coach Sharon Dingman. “Starting the season strong had been a goal of ours and it was a goal we thought we could achieve. Mallory (Husz) commented she wasn’t even born the last time an Iowa team started 6-0, so that kind of puts it into perspective. We are all very excited.”
Junior Mara Hilgenberg led the Hawkeyes to a set three win with 45 assists. Junior Aimee Huffman led the team with 13 kills and senior Christina Meister added a team-high 19 digs in the winning effort. All three players earned all-tournament honors, with Hilgenberg capturing the honor of tournament MVP. Hilgenberg collected 135 assists over the three-game tournament, including a career-high 47 in Iowa’s win over South Dakota State. Huffman added 34 kills and 26 digs in the Classic, while Meister collected 75 digs, including a career-high 36 in Iowa’s win over Central Michigan, tying an Iowa record.
Iowa opens its 2009 home schedule Friday against Iowa State in the first events of the 2010 Hy-Vee CyHawk Series. Match time in Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set for 7 p.m.
“The great thing about tonight’s win was it was a game we had to earn,” said Dingman. “Green Bay is a team that doesn’t give any points away. We knew we would have to play physical and we stepped up and did that when it mattered most.”
Iowa jumped to an early 1-0 match lead with a 26-24 win in the opening set, Iowa’s first set this season to go beyond the 25-point mark. A balanced offense attack that included 17 kills carried Iowa. Senior Megan Schipper and junior Aimee Huffman led the charge with four kills each.
Iowa jumped out 1-0 on a Schipper kill, but UW-GB answered with three straight points and the Hawkeyes wouldn’t see the lead again until a Mallory Husz kill gave Iowa a 6-5 lead. The teams fought within one point of each other until the Phoenix grabbed a 17-15 advantage. Iowa then used a 4-1 run to stake a one-point lead, 20-19, before UW-GB battled back to take a 23-22 lead. After an Iowa timeout, the Phoenix pushed the lead to 24-22, but Iowa fought off set point with a kill from freshman Emma Krieger Kittle to start a 4-0 run, capped off with a set-winning ace from junior Samantha Brannigan.
The Hawkeyes battled from behind in set two to take a commanding 2-0 match advantage. Junior Mara Hilgenberg assisted on 14 of Iowa’s 18 kills and senior Christina Meister recorded eight of Iowa’s 28 digs in the set.
UW-GB controlled the game early on and worked its way to a 12-6 lead. Kills from Schipper, Krieger Kittle, Husz, Huffman and Kennedy eventually cut the Phoenix lead in half, 15-12. From there, Iowa went on a 6-0 run to take command of the set. Leading 20-18, the Hawkeyes used two more kills from Krieger Kittle and Kennedy to take their largest lead of the game, 22-18. After UW-GB closed within two points, 21-23, Iowa took advantage of a Phoenix error to set up set-point and Schipper’s decisive kill, her fifth of the set.
Iowa closed the contest with a hard fought 25-23 win in the third set to clinch the tournament title. Iowa trailed 9-12 when a Schipper kill and a Kennedy block pulled the Hawkeyes within one. UW-GB then stretched the lead back to two when Iowa used a Krieger Kittle kill and consecutive blocks to take a 14-13 lead. After the Phoenix rallied to take a 19-18 advantage, Iowa used a 7-4 run to win the set and match the program’s best start since 1988.
The Hawkeyes return to action next Friday (Sept. 11) at 7 p.m. when they host Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the opening round of the Hawkeye Challenge. The match is the first event of the 2009-10 Cy-Hawk Series.