Sept. 4, 2014
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 4, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2014-15 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Alessandra Dietz slipped away from the state of Iowa for a few weeks this summer, but she remained surrounded by Hawkeyes.
Dietz, a 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker on the University of Iowa volleyball team, was in San Diego completing a sports business practicum course. She was wearing an Iowa volleyball backpack.
“Of course there are people out there saying `Go Hawks!’ when they see your backpack or sweatshirt,” Dietz said. “It is cool to see everyone still a part of that.”
That far-reaching act of spirit and fellowship is what Dietz appreciates most about being a Hawkeye.
While being recruited in high school, she weighed the pros and cons of attending a large school or small school; one with a football team or one without. Dietz chose Loyola Marymount, a university of less than 7,000 students in West Los Angeles.
“I fell in love with the California idea and the volleyball culture out there,” said Dietz, who is from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. “I liked that, but the camaraderie wasn’t what I was looking for.”
“Iowa is the ultimate in camaraderie, Hawkeye Nation,” Dietz said. “If you’re talking about school spirit, that’s Iowa. I fell in love with that right away.”
Dietz appeared in 15 matches as a freshman at Loyola Marymount, recording 16 kills. Her productivity increased dramatically during her first season at Iowa in 2012. Dietz played in all 33 matches, starting the final 31. She led the Hawkeyes in blocks (81) and service aces (25) and was third with 198 kills.
Last season Dietz started all 31 matches, leading the team in total blocks (112), solo blocks (20), block assists (92), service aces (26), and attack percentage (.262).
It will be a while before Dietz opens her final season of collegiate volleyball on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes spend August and the first 3 ½ weeks of September away from home.
“It’s hard for me knowing this is my last season, because volleyball is a huge part of my life,” Dietz said. “I’m excited to get after it, and I don’t want to waste any time that I have on the court, whether that is practice or matches or even bus rides with teammates. It’s important to me to take advantage of every moment I have.”
“It’s hard for me knowing this is my last season, because volleyball is a huge part of my life. I’m excited to get after it, and I don’t want to waste any time that I have on the court, whether that is practice or matches or even bus rides with teammates. It’s important to me to take advantage of every moment I have.”
UI senior middle blocker
Iowa’s first game at home is Sept. 27 against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have been either first or second in their first three seasons in the Big Ten Conference. Last season eight Big Ten teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament, with five earning top-16 seeds.
“Being in the Big Ten is another thing that drew me to Iowa,” Dietz said. “You’re competing and fighting against the best of the best every weekend. If you’re going to be putting this much time and effort into the sport you love, why not push yourself to do it at the best level and compete against the best athletes?”
Bond Shymansky begins his first season as head coach of the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s last winning conference record came in 2000 at 11-9.
“From a wins-losses standpoint, coach put a number on it and he said 20 wins,” Dietz said. “That’s something that I am going to make my goal and our team is going to make it our goal. It is something we’re going to strive to do this season.”
The last time the Hawkeyes had 20-win success was 1994 when they were 24-9 overall and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
To reach 20 wins, Shymanksy will rely on production and leadership from Dietz.
“She is a huge impact player for us,” Shymansky said. “She’s a point-getter and a block-stopper. She does a lot of things on the court physically that are exceptional.
“A great leader is going to do things we like as a coach, but they are going to do things that the team will always follow. Dietz has that ability to get the team to follow her. Sometimes it’s unconventional, sometimes it’s ways I don’t understand, but the team gravitates toward her and they will follow her lead on court. She is a great competitive force.”
After college, Dietz is debating about playing volleyball in Europe, becoming a graduate assistant coach, or putting her communication studies major to use. Dietz’s aunt, Diane Dietz, is chief communications officer at the Big Ten Conference; Alessandra has assisted her at the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Rose Bowl, and others.
“I have gone to a lot of events with (my aunt) and helped out with events for the Big Ten,” Dietz said. “Seeing what she does and how she manages situations is really intriguing to me.”
For now, Dietz is worried more about the Hawkeyes’ pursuit of 20 victories.
“I’m trying to focus on the season and tackle that,” she said.