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 CARI GOLD
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Everyone wants to be part of a winning athletics program, but it takes a special group to climb to that point. The seniors on the University of Iowa volleyball team (Ashley Mariani, Alyssa Klostermann, Loxley Keala, and Lauren Brobst) have emerged as a special group over the past few years.
Change is hard, and there have been many changes for the squad over the past few years. One major change has been the introduction of True Mental Toughness, the mantra head coach Bond Shymansky has implemented for the team this season. True mental toughness means having a great attitude, treating others well, being unconditionally grateful regardless of your circumstances, and giving your best.
The seniors recognize the significance of TMT in life, especially as they prepare for life after college.
“The TMT Mantra has really allowed me to step back and look into my own being,” said Mariani. I look at life through a completely different eye on and off the court now. When I get frustrated, I can just take a step back, think for a second and then continue to be the best teammate and person I can be.”
“It hit all of us off the court as well as on, especially when talking about life and learning how to grow throughout life,” added Klostermann. “Coach Shymansky does a good job preparing us for the future. He always says we’re volleyball players, but we’re eventually going to need a future, and being able to take true mental toughness beyond the court is what makes it such a cool slogan.”
True mental toughness has helped in all facets of the Hawkeye squad, especially with team chemistry. It is not unusual for a team to feel like family, but the bond the Hawkeyes have this season is rare. This team chemistry off the court has helped Iowa succeed on the court as well.
“The team chemistry has been incredible,” said Keala. “It begins off the court and carries onto the court. We don’t have any drama or conflicts with one another, which is rare in women’s sports in general. Everyone gets along and we are family. I think that has shown on the court and how we are doing this season.”
“This season the team chemistry is amazing,” added Mariani. “Everone gets along with each other and if someone does have a problem with something someone else is doing, they tell them and handle the problem. I have never seen or been on a team with such good team chemistry before.”
All four seniors chose to attend Iowa to improve the program, and they all want to leave it in better shape.
“I came to Iowa with the thought of helping change the program,” said Brobst. “Getting to see the changes happen and being a part of the shift is something that is special to me. It’s something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”
With one match left in the regular season, the Hawkeyes are sitting at 19-12 overall and 9-10 in Big Ten play. The 19 wins are the most for the program since 1994, while the nine league wins are the most since 2000. The seniors came to improve the program. They came to leave a legacy, and they are doing just that.
“I think that’s so important for future Hawkeyes that are in this program to see where it all began,” said Keala. “It’s important to leave the program better than it was before, and I think we’ve done a good job of that. We come in every day ready to grind and ready to outwork our opponent and compete hard, and I think that culture will carry on throughout Iowa volleyball history.”
The Hawkeyes conclude the regular season Saturday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against No. 14 Michigan State (23-8, 12-7). The match begins at 7 p.m. (CT).