Aug. 27, 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 — University of Iowa head volleyball coach Sharon Dingman is looking for box scores with kills on it, and during the opening weekend of 2012, those kills came from faces new and old.
Alex Lovell, who led the team in kills last season, totaled 54 kills in four matches at the 2012 Hawkeye Challenge. Her 3.38 kills per set would’ve been enough to lead the team a year ago, but early on in 2012, she’s playing catch-up to junior Rachael Bedell.
Bedell tallied 55 kills over four games, averaging 3.44 kills per set and reestablishing herself as an outside threat after a disappointing sophomore season that saw her kill total drop from 189 as a freshman to 71 as a sophomore.
“Rachael is a big part of this team, and she was a lot of fun to watch (Saturday),” Dingman said after Bedell slammed a match-high 18 kills in Iowa’s 3-1 win over Valparaiso. “She struggled early, but then she just lit it up at the end of the third set and into the fourth. It was fun to see her raise her game that much.”
Bedell and Lovell helped Iowa win 3-of-4 matches last weekend, but they weren’t the lone gunmen. Allessandra Deitz and Erin Radke made their Iowa debuts at the Hawkeye Challenge, and both players wasted little time filling up the box score.
Radke, a freshman right-side hitter from Sioux Falls, S.D., totaled a career-best 13 kills against South Dakota State.
“I was really nervous going into the first match,” said Radke, “But it was a great chance to get the nerves out, especially knowing we had a game against a team from my home state. At the beginning I was still really nervous, but it got more fun as it got more intense and as the sets progressed.”
That intensity, coupled with a left-handed swing from the right pin, gives Iowa a look Dingman hasn’t seen in her first four seasons. Dingman says the freshman is one of the best athletes on the team, but because she is a rookie, she needs to be reminded to stay aggressive and use her athleticism.
“There was a timeout after a little joust at the net, and I really got on her because she has to go out and win those battles,” said Dingman. “When there’s a joust at the net nobody should beat Radke.”
The freshman later proved she’s very coachable.
“She came out and shut me up,” said Dingman. “She had a great cross court kill and stuff at the net that got everyone fired up. She did some great things. She certainly makes our team look different and getting kills like that she’s probably going to stress the defense more than I’ve seen during my time at Iowa.”
“I’ve told our middles that they’re our greatest blessing and our greatest challenge because all three are capable of playing at a really high level all the time,” said Dingman.
“Allessandra did a great job. She’s one of our best servers, so it was great to see her in there scoring some points for us. She does things a little differently. Emily and Chante’ are a little similar, and Allessandra gives us a couple things that she can do that looks different to a defense.”
Not to be outdone at the net, Thompson slammed 38 kills from the middle to earn all-tournament honors.
“Chante’ absolutely deserved that honor,” said Dingman. “She’s the energy on the floor right now. She brings the enthusiasm and has everyone paying attention to her right now.”
Thompson will have an opportunity to grab some more hardware when the Hawkeyes travel to Rochester, Mich., for the Oakland Tournament next week. The three-match weekend begins Friday at 3:30 p.m. against Eastern Illinois.
“It’s going to be a really good tournament,” said Dingman. “I’d like to see us limit our hitting errors, but this is my fifth year here, and we haven’t had many box scores with kills on it. That’s one thing we know we have to do. We have to kill the ball, and we’re doing that. If we can clean up the hitting errors, we’ll be good.”