Spring Time, Spring Forward

May 4, 2013

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– The University of Iowa volleyball team will not lack experience heading into the 2013 season. The Hawkeyes will return 15-of-16 letterwinners and add a four-player recruiting class.

This spring, the returnees have been hard at work, as a cohesive unit.

“Spring practice has been great,” said senior-to-be Bethany Yeager. “It was so much fun for us to get to compete again. We have been in the gym working hard to get better in many areas.”

The returning players are led by a four-player senior class that includes Yeager, Grace Burns, Nikki Dailey and Rachael Bedell — a group that has combined for 294 starts. Dailey has started every set since the start of the 2011 season, and Yeager has started every match of her Hawkeye career at libero, playing in 347-of-348 career sets.

The veteran group has led the Hawkeyes during the spring training period, which included four tournaments.

“The team has been improving dramatically this spring and working hard throughout the offseason to prepare ourselves for the upcoming season,” said Yeager, who is fifth in program history in digs. “It has been beneficial to have the whole team back and out on the court together.

“We are so thankful for the opportunities we have had here as Hawkeyes and are ready to finish strong in our last season.”

“We have been able to work on a lot and connect with each other, which will help us going into next season. We have been taking full advantage of it: playing together a lot and working on our chemistry.”

Playing in the Big Ten Conference — the nation’s best volleyball conference — presents little time during the regular season to hone specific skills. The competition is second to none. Seven league teams were selected to the NCAA Tournament in 2012. Six of the final 16 teams in the tournament hailed form the Big Ten, and two advanced to the Final Four.

The spring presents the perfect opportunity to work on the specifics.

“We have been working on reading the hitters more on defense and terminating on offense with high level shots,” said Yeager, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. “We continue to build on our communication and competing at a high level, consistently.”

The Hawkeyes will lose senior Allison Straumann to graduation, but will return the four seniors-to-be, six juniors ( Alessandra Dietz, Katie Kelley, Erin Leppek, Alex Lovell, Kari Mueller, Emily Yanny) and five sophomores ( Julianne Blomberg, Kathleen Dailey, Alli O’Deen, Erin Radke, Anne Yanda).

Lovell tallied a team-high and career-best 382 kills last season — the 382 kills were the most in a single season since Catherine Smale posted 441 in 2005.

Yeager and the seniors want to leave their mark on the program.

“We are excited to continue working on these things this summer heading into next season and bettering ourselves as a team,” said Yeager. “As seniors, we have a goal to make the NCAA tournament and leave a lasting change within the program. We want our hard work to continue for many years to come, and we want it shown next year with a trip to the tournament.

“We are so thankful for the opportunities we have had here as Hawkeyes and are ready to finish strong in our last season.”