Persistence Pays Off

Nov. 14, 2010


IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Big Ten Conference has not treated the Iowa volleyball squad kindly so far this season. That changed Saturday.

After losing the first set to No. 16 Michigan, UI head coach Sharon Dingman’s Hawkeyes proceeded to take the next three sets, earning their second conference victory of the season.

“It feels good,” Dingman said following the win in front of 1,132 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I’m really proud of how we played and really happy for the players. This is one of the few matches I think that everybody played well.”

Junior outside-hitter Tiffany Nilges is one of those players who played well.

“Obviously the team has been struggling lately and we haven’t won a game in a long time,” Nilges said. “But this win can give us the confidence we need to finish the season with some more wins.”

Always a consistent performer, Nilges recorded nine digs and five kills to help the Hawkeyes drop the Wolverines to 10-6 in Big Ten play. Iowa improved to 7-18 overall, 2-14 in the Big Ten.

Wins have not been easy to come by in conference play for the Hawkeyes, but that is more of a testament to the Big Ten’s powerful make-up than it is a slight against Iowa, who went 5-4 in non-conference matches.

“We had one win coming into this game,” Dingman said. “But I think every coach knows you can’t look at that and think you can take a night off when you play the Hawkeyes.”

“It feels good. I’m really proud of how we played and really happy for the players. This is one of the few matches I think that everybody played well.”
UI head coach
Sharon Dingman

The Big Ten currently has five teams ranked in the top 25 of the Bison/AVCA Coaches Poll including 8th-ranked Penn. State and 9th-ranked Illinois.

“In my three years, this is the best the Big Ten has been,” Dingman said. “I think we’re probably the best conference in the country right now. It’s crazy every night and it’s a grind. You’ve got to learn fast that there isn’t a single night off. They’re playing against the best players in the country, but that’s why they come to Iowa.”

“This conference definitely challenges you day-in and day-out,” Nilges said. “But at the end of the day it makes you a better volleyball player and ultimately a better team.

Dingman’s claim regarding the conference being “crazy every night” proved to be accurate as the underdog Hawkeyes handled their upper-tier Big Ten adversary rather convincingly.

It may not be evident in the Win column, but the Hawkeyes have remained resilient and competitive throughout the rigorous conference lineup.

“Our attitude has been very good actually,” Nilges said. “Not doing well has brought us closer because we know if we’re not close we’re could completely fall apart. That definitely helped us get this win.”

While a postseason appearance is out of the question for the Hawkeyes, there is still much to be gained from the remaining schedule.

“We have a lot of confidence left to gain,” said Nilges. “We’re a young team and we’re only losing one senior, so we need to keep growing. We definitely have to continue getting more confident with the way we play.”

“We can still do some pretty cool things,” Dingman added. “These last games need to be our NCAA Tournament and that’s how we have to approach it. I know it’s such a cliche to keep getting better but clearly that’s what we need to do.”

With four matches left in the regular season, the Hawkeyes next travel to Champaign, Ill., on Friday, Nov. 19 to battle the Fighting Illini. That match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Michigan vs. Iowa 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Michigan (10-6, 21-7) 25 23 22 23
Iowa (2-14, 7-18) 20 25 25 25

Statistical Leaders
Kills: Walters, Bedell (UI) 11 | Hunt (UM) 19
Assists: Paige Stevens (UI) 24 | Zimmerman (UM) 54
Digs: Bethany Yeager (UI) 15 | Donhoff (UM) 15