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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By BRANDEE BRITT
|IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa volleyball team heads into its 2016 season with something it hasn’t had in two seasons under head coach Bond Shymansky: depth.
With11 returning letterwinners and five newcomers — two of which come with collegiate experience — the Hawkeyes look to build upon their early success last season.
“We have great new young comers in our program,” said Shymansky. “We have a couple of transfers that have come in and added a lot of depth and skill, and obviously we have a lot of returning players, which is always a good thing to have when you’re competing in the best conference in the country.”
The Hawkeyes tore through their nonconference portion of the schedule in 2015, compiling a 10-3 record with key wins over Iowa State — Iowa’s first win over the Cyclones since 1997 — and No. 25 Texas A&M.
Now, Iowa looks to continue that success into the Big Ten portion of its schedule. For Shymansky, it all starts with his seniors: Lauren Brobst, Loxley Keala, Alyssa Klostermann, and Ashley Mariani.
“We are looking to our four seniors, who will all be out on the court as a starting element and a core of our group,” said Shymansky. “We’re looking for them to make the most of their fourth and final year, and that moment needs to come.
“I know they felt proud beating Iowa State last year. We like that in-state rival component, but we need to go out there and do more damage in Big Ten play, too.”
Brobst, an outside hitter, led the team in kills last season (369 kills/3.21 kills per set), while Keala started every match as Iowa’s setter and dished out a team-leading 1,247 assists. Mariani (MB/OH) started all 33 matches and registered 221 kills in 2015, and Klostermann, a defensive specialist, contributed 94 digs in the back row.
“I think this is going to be the year we make our big mark in conference play,” said Klostermann. “The Big Ten is a powerhouse conference, but there are teams that we can beat and upset. If we do that, it’s going to make this season special.”
While making a mark in a conference that has nine teams ranked or receiving votes in the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association (ACVA) Poll won’t be easy, Shymansky’s “four-headed-monster,” comprised of Kasey Reuter, Meghan Buzzerio, Reagan Davey and Cali Hoye, on the outside will certainly help.
“We have some newcomers that are helping to add some depth… so I called them the four-headed monster the other day,” said Shymansky. “Brobst has kind of solidified herself as one of our starters… but we finally have four players that are all competing for one spot.
“We have depth and that will allow the cream to rise in our gym on a daily basis and also give us options when we’re out there competing. Not every day is everybody’s best day, so now we have different kinds of answers.”
The Hawkeyes open the 2016 season at the NIU Invitational on Aug. 27. Iowa will face Loyola and DePaul on Saturday before taking on the host Huskies on Sunday.