Aug. 18, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Preparations for the University of Iowa volleyball team were in full force during the months of June and July with 6 a.m. open gyms, four times a week. The Hawkeyes hope the work pays off during the 2011 season.
“They (the players) said this is the best summer they’ve had in open gyms,” head coach Sharon Dingman said at Iowa’s media day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I think Megan (Eskew) really took some responsibility of having a plan of how she envisioned summer workouts going.”
After posting a 7-22 record during the 2010 season, the Hawkeyes knew some work had to be done in the offseason. It started with a solid spring season, but Eskew wanted to carry that over into the summer and fall.
“Summers are a really important time, especially transitioning into the fall,” said Eskew, who is one of four seniors on the UI roster. “You have a spring season, but it doesn’t matter if you have a great spring and then take the summer off. Getting in the gym constantly, working on your fitness and getting touches on the ball are really important.”
It is also important to have experience, and the Hawkeyes have 10 letterwinners and five starters returning in 2011. The team also welcomes seven newcomers to the roster, giving Dingman more depth than she’s had in her tenure.
“We’re going to be a little older. We’re still young, but we aren’t going to have three freshmen on the floor this year. They could be sophomores, but they have a year under their belt and that’s huge. If I learned one thing last year, is you have to have some older players in the Big Ten to win.”
UI head coach
“We’re going to be a little older,” said Dingman. “We’re still young, but we aren’t going to have three freshmen on the floor this year. They could be sophomores, but they have a year under their belt and that’s huge. If I learned one thing last year, is you have to have some older players in the Big Ten to win.
“The newcomers’ impact has been felt with our depth. Now we can do drills where we don’t have to have the middle blockers stay in the drill the whole time. From a depth standpoint, our freshmen have been terrific.”
One of the sophomores — setter Nikki Dailey — is expected to take over the all-important setting position. The Franklin, Wis., native played in 94 sets as a true freshman, finishing with 306 assists and 199 digs.
“It’s a little fearful when you think about a sophomore, who didn’t play a lot as a freshman, leading the charge, but I think Nikki is ready for it,” said Dingman. “She’s really confident in her abilities and that’s usually the biggest thing you have to see in your setter.”
The Hawkeyes will make a change to their home venue this season. Gone is the “North” Carver playing court. Instead, the team will return to using the full court with curtains hanging from the ceiling to create a better atmosphere. The move excites Dingman.
“I’m really excited to see it with the curtains dropped next weekend,” said Dingman, of the new venue, which will hold 8,517 spectators at its capacity. “That alone will make it more intimate.
“If we can get 3,000-4,000 people in there with those curtains down, it will be unbelievable. We think it makes it a more special event going the natural direction. We did it the last weekend (in 2010) against Ohio State and Penn State and it felt different, like a collegiate event should feel.”
The summer workouts took a toll on the Hawkeyes, but the players know that it will pay dividends this fall.
“Early morning, 6 a.m., four days a week kind of wears and tears on you, but it makes you better,” said Eskew. “It’ll be worth it.”
Iowa opens its season on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. against Central Michigan in the 2011 Hawkeye Challenge.