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 — The 2016 season was monumental for the University of Iowa volleyball team. The Hawkeyes finished 19-13 overall, marking the first winning record for the program since 2000. The 19 wins were the most for the program since 1994.
The Hawkeyes are not ready to stop there.
“We continue to stay on our team mission of true mental toughness,” said UI head coach Bond Shymansky. “Those four components of giving our best, treating others well, having a great attitude, and being unconditionally grateful regardless of our circumstances, have allowed us to take on the challenges and rigors with a growth mindset.
“Being focused and consistent are cornerstones to growth. We know we are growing something significant in our program, so we will stay with our mission knowing that it will never end.”
Each season brings turnover. Seniors graduate, newcomers enter, and a new team must learn how to work together toward a common goal. Four Iowa seniors graduated, but three newcomers — Maggie Revell, Halle Johnston, and Gabrielle Orr — joined the team in January and trained in the spring.
“The spring season is a fantastic bonding time and also a strong training time for everyone on the team,” said Shymansky. “When you add new players mid-year, it becomes so important that the current group is welcoming, encouraging, and motivating. We hunger for the competition inside the practice gym and on the court against other teams. Everyone did a fantastic job of embracing the newcomers and working hard to get better each day.”
Iowa took the momentum of last season into a spring season where it played matches against Kansas State, Creighton, UNI, DePaul, Iowa State, Northern Illinois, and others throughout the month of April. These spring contests were important, but bonding as a team and growing in the practice gym will have the biggest impact come fall.
“Our spring season was impactful for our younger players and gave us the opportunity to see everybody compete in various roles and positions,” said Shymansky. “We had a great deal of success in spring matches, but the best growth happened in our practice gym. We got consistency and development from our outside hitter group, and we got a ton of quality reps for our back row passers.
“Brie Orr developed nicely through the spring season and gained from her experience of coming to Iowa a semester early. We are all looking forward to staying on our mission this summer and preparing for the fall.”
True Mental Toughness. The inspiration to keep working hard, even during adverse times. The drive to be one cohesive unit on and off the court, even when things are tough. The encouragement to care more for your teammates than for yourself. These are the pillars of the program Shymansky began instilling when he arrived on campus in 2014, and this is the foundation he continues to build upon as the Hawkeyes approach the fall season.
“I am excited to watch our team continue on its mission,” said Shymansky. “We have elite-level people and players in our program who are prepared to take on the elite-level challenges of the season. We will play coast-to-coast and run head long into the Big Ten slate with our true mental toughness.”