Aug. 14, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The work put in by the University of Iowa volleyball team during the spring and summer has the Hawkeyes in a good place heading into the 2012 season. That’s music to head coach Sharon Dingman’s ears.
“Our players did everything they were supposed to over the summer,” said Dingman at Iowa’s annual media day Tuesday in the press room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Their conditioning is solid and where it needs to be for us to continue to progress.
“I am pleased with where we are. We’re ahead of where we were a year ago, and we’re progressing pretty fast.”
Dingman returns 10 letterwinners and four starters from the 2011 season, including an experienced junior class that has been elevated into a leadership position this season. Defensive specialist Allison Straumann is the Hawkeyes’ lone senior.
“Our upperclassmen look like upperclassmen now,” said Dingman, now in her fifth season in Iowa City. “The most exciting part is our junior class. They’ve figured out they’re juniors and have a sense of urgency about them. Their performance has been consistent, which one might expect from upperclassmen.
“Alli (Straumann) is doing a great job. She’s everything you need from a senior class, as she is the senior class. It’s been fun watching her lead this team because we do have a lot of new faces.”
“It is very crucial for our class to step up, but the nice thing about it is it comes so natural for us,” said Dailey, who led the team with 1,152 assists in 2011. “We grew into that position by playing a lot last year and knowing what to expect and how to handle high pressure situations.
“We’re more focused on bringing the underclassmen to where we’re at. It took us two years to get to where we’re at now, so we want to speed up the process with the freshmen, because we want them there now too.”
Dingman says Iowa’s six newcomers — freshmen Erin Radke, Anne Yanda, Kathleen Dailey and Julianne Blomberg and sophomore transfers Alessandra Dietz and Katie Kelley — will play a large role this season.
“We’ll expect a lot out of them,” said Dingman. “If we’re running a 6-2 (offense) then Anne and Erin are both on the floor.
“Anne has been a pleasant surprise… her IQ and ability to get in there and start leading the team right away has allowed us to move forward pretty quickly. Erin has the ability to be a pretty big point scorer for us as time goes on and has an opportunity to have a huge impact in our blocking schemes.”
Dingman says sophomore Alex Lovell will need to step up to account for the attention she’ll receive after leading the Hawkeyes with 312 kills in 2011.
“A year ago teams weren’t thinking about Alex Lovell when they were playing Iowa,” said Dingman. “That’s not what their scouting reports were about and that’s going to be there for sure this year. I love how she practices. When you can make that change, then your game is going to change.”
Lovell says she has been practicing in an effort to play through the added attention.
“It’s learning how to see around the block and switching up the shots,” said Lovell. “A big part of this summer was learning how to hit the different angles and the different spots on the court. It’s improving your volleyball IQ rather than hitting the same thing.”
Iowa will host the Black & Gold Scrimmage on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. before opening the regular season with the Hawkeye Challenge presented by Comfort Suites on Aug. 24-25.