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 is off to its best start since 1994 thanks, in part, to its Bench Press.
While the Hawkeyes are undoubtedly putting in work in the weight room, it’s the team’s Bench Press on the sidelines that’s making the most noise — literally.
“Our bench crew calls themselves the bench press,” said UI head coach Bond Shymansky. “They have really embraced, not being bench players, but being players who are on the bench in that moment. We are counting on everybody to contribute in significant ways this year, and that’s one of the ways they can do it.”
The idea started with Iowa’s three true freshmen — Emily Bushman, Cali Hoye, and Alexa Ito. It has since transformed into a phenomena, complete with original moves for every team member and special choreography for blocks, kills, and aces.
“We started the Bench Press early on in the season, because we wanted to provide more energy for the girls on the court,” said Bushman. “We started with regular cheers, but that didn’t provide a lot of energy, because our voices got lost in a gym full of people.
“Now we have cheers with higher energy that are more noticeable. We get hyped about what’s happening on the court and that excitement adds to what we are doing on our side of the net.”
“It’s a fun way to get fired up about the game,” said Hoye. “It impacts the game by getting everyone, including the fans, excited and involved. It has evolved into an important part of our game that helps us win matches.”
While fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena notice and respond to the energy on the sidelines within the first few minutes of a match, the Bench Press has been equally important on the road.
“We wanted to start something fun and different,” said Ito. “It sets us apart from other teams. The Bench Press creates a lot of energy for our team. When we are playing on the road, it becomes an important factor in determining the atmosphere of the game.”
The added energy and excitement appears to be working.
Iowa improved to 12-4 on the season — the team’s best start since 1994 — following back-to-back Big Ten wins against Maryland (Sept. 28) and Northwestern (Oct. 1). The Hawkeyes are ranked third in the conference is assists per set (13.27), fourth in hitting percentage (.288) and opponent hitting percentage (.157), and fifth in kills per set (14.10) and total kills (719).
“The Bench Press has been helpful,” said junior starter Jess Janota. “They give so much energy and are always there to push you to be your very best. It’s another component of our team that helps us in those intense moments. Their energy has helped us succeed on the court this season.”
Fans can see the Bench Press in action this weekend. The Hawkeyes host Purdue on Friday, before welcoming Indiana to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday. First serve for both matches is set for 7 p.m. (CT).