Hilgenberg, Kittle together again as Hawkeyes

Oct. 5, 2009

Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the Sept. 30 edition of the Official Sports Report (OSR) for the University of Iowa. OSR is a daily e-newsletter exclusively about the Iowa Hawkeyes. Click HERE to learn more.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Déjà vu? There is a Hilgenberg and Kittle teaming up at the University of Iowa, but this time it isn’t the late 1970s and they aren’t members of the Hawkeye football offensive line.

Mara Hilgenberg is a junior setter from Lake Forest, Ill. Emma Krieger Kittle is a freshman outside hitter from Iowa City, Iowa. Both are making a positive impact for the Hawkeye volleyball program. Both are daughters of two famous Iowa football players from the early Hayden Fry era.

Mara’s father is Jay, a letterman for the Hawkeyes in 1977-80, who went on to become a seven-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. Emma’s father is Bruce, a letterman for the Hawkeyes from 1977-79 and also in ’81. Jay and Bruce were more than teammates. They were also roommates at a time when football players were required to live in the dormitories during their entire careers.

“I’m proud,” Mara Hilgenberg said. “I love representing the University of Iowa and I think it’s great that basically my whole family went here, so it’s a lot of fun.”

“A lot of my family members have gone here, so it’s exciting to be part of something that has been passed down,” Emma Krieger Kittle said.

During a preseason media conference UI head volleyball coach Sharon Dingman praised the efforts of the Hawkeye legacies.

“Mara’s feisty,” Dingman said. “She’s got a little bit of her dad in her. A little feistiness, a little sass. She’s very competitive. She loves to get after it. Some of Jay shines through in her sometimes with that `hit `em in the mouth attitude’.”

Dingman called Krieger Kittle `the most pleasant surprise’ on the team.

“She has surpassed our expectations of her volleyball ability,” Dingman said. “We knew she was a great athlete. She has been our most pleasant surprise.”

The irony of the family heritage is not lost on the two new volleyball teammates.

“It was kind of funny when we found out,” said Krieger Kittle, who met Hilgenberg for the first time on her campus visit.

“It’s pretty odd, but it’s cool,” Hilgenberg said.

The Hawkeye volleyball team is 9-7 overall and returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena this weekend to play Michigan (Friday, Oct. 9) and Michigan State (Sunday, Oct. 11). Hilgenberg has played 56 sets and has distributed 560 assists (10.0 per game), with 114 digs, 18 blocks and seven ace serves. Krieger Kittle has played 43 sets with 77 kills (.203 attack percentage), 21 digs and nine blocks.

So what sort of advice has father passed down to daughter?

“He tells me to have fun, it’s college,” Hilgenberg said.

“It’s going to go by really fast, so enjoy it all the time,” Krieger Kittle said of her father’s words of wisdom. “The dorms are great, but don’t get too carried away.”

Jay Hilgenberg resides in Lake Forest, Ill., and runs a golf course he developed in Kenosha, Wis. Bruce Kittle works for the department of corrections and is a line coach for the Iowa City West High School football team. He is also a part-time pastor.

“He comes to every game,” Mara said. “He likes volleyball.”

“Oh yeah,” said Krieger Kittle when asked if her father would be a regular at Hawkeye volleyball matches. “He better be.”