Aug. 17, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Rachael Bedell for MVP? It’s early, but the Hawkeye junior appears up for the challenge.
Bedell enters 2012 determined to rebound from the dreaded sophomore slump that killed any momentum she had built as a promising young freshman. She was part of a nationally-recognized recruiting class when she arrived on campus in 2010, and for one season she looked like she might be the breakout star of the decorated class.
She had a strong swing as a freshman and finished fourth on the team with 189 kills. Defensively, she totaled 53 blocks, including a career-best five blocks in Iowa’s 3-1 win over nationally-ranked Michigan. She also grew into a solid back row defender, closing the year with a career-best eight digs against Ohio State.
Through the course of her rookie season she had developed into all-around player and found herself in the starting lineup 22 times. There was probable cause to believe she would take another step forward as a sophomore, and early in the season she had the chance. She started four of Iowa’s first six contests in 2011, but she never regained her old rhythm and cracked the starting lineup just one other time.
“I came in my freshmen year and I really had no idea what to expect so I kind of came out and just played. I was having fun,” said Bedell. “My sophomore year I started thinking too much. I wasn’t simply reacting to the game. I was thinking about everything and that’s when my errors started piling up. Obviously, I didn’t play as well as I wanted.
“Coming into this season, I realize I’m beginning the second half of my collegiate career and I’m just going out and trying to have fun. We have an opportunity to take a big step forward this year, and I want to be on the floor to make it happen.”
If Bedell rediscovers the “fun” she was having as a freshman, her numbers will be a welcomed addition to a team that has to replace three of its top four scorers from last season. Megan Eskew, Mallory Husz and Tiffany Nilges are all lost to graduation. All three won MVP awards in their Hawkeye careers, and last season they combined for 2,156 attacks. That’s a far cry from the 254 swings Bedell took a year ago, but it’s also why she spent the summer preparing to fill the void.
“Rachael Bedell has had a great training camp,” said UI head coach Sharon Dingman. “If we had to give an MVP for the first week of training camp, it certainly goes to Rachael.
“She’s a part of a very exciting junior class. They’ve figured out that they’re juniors and they have a sense of urgency about them. Their performance has been consistent and they’re playing some high level volleyball.”
Bedell has also embraced her newfound leadership role. Iowa’s 17-person roster has just one senior and 11 freshman and sophomores. The junior and sophomore classes both celebrated a baptism by fire over the last two seasons, and they want to make sure this year’s group of six newcomers is prepared to hit the ground running when the brutal Big Ten season opens Sept. 21.
“Coming into this fall I just wanted to really have fun and try to lead by example as much as possible,” said Bedell. “We have a really big incoming class, and they’re progressing every single day in practice, and I think that motivates all of us.
“We have players on this team capable of making great contributions. We’re all fighting for floor time and pushing each other, which is great because we’re going to need everyone. I really want to do some good things this year.”
Bedell’s junior season officially begins August 24 when the Hawkeyes host Chicago State at the Hawkeye Challenge presented by Comfort Suites. Iowa fans can grab a sneak peak at the 2012 team at the annual Black and Gold Scrimmage this Saturday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 7 p.m. Admission is free.