By JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Tomorrow five Hawkeyes – Annika Olsen, Kasey Reuter, Kelsey O’Neill, Jess Janota, Taylin Alm, and manager Brandon Darrington — will bid farewell to Carver-Hawkeye Arena when the University of Iowa volleyball team hosts Ohio State on Senior Night, but it’s the lessons and memories off the court that will stick with them well into the future.
From day one, head coach Bond Shymansky instills a mentality in his players called True Mental Toughness. It’s more than just a way of playing volleyball, it’s a mindset that is needed to succeed in life.
“True Mental Toughness has made me a better person toward other people and has shown me that I need to be my best in every aspect of my life,” Alm said.
The four pillars of True Mental Toughness — having a great attitude, treating others really, really well, being unconditionally grateful regardless of your circumstances, and giving your very, very best — have already spoken volumes to Reuter, who transferred to Iowa for her junior year.
“I’m big into sports psychology, so I like the four points of True Mental Toughness,” she said. “They will translate into adult life with ease, and I think it will help me be the best version of myself if I continue to have it at the forefront of my mind. People naturally gravitate to people who have a good attitude and work hard, and those are two things that I strive to have each day.”
Of all the memories made as Hawkeyes, the ones made overseas will last forever.
“My favorite moment was our trip to Europe in 2016,”Reuter said. “It was such a great, enriching experience, getting to see so many different kinds of culture and pieces of history, but that wasn’t even my favorite part. What I ended up valuing the most was getting to spend a prolonged amount of time with the girls and staff members on the team.”
“My favorite moment is probably spontaneously swimming in a lake in Germany after a long day during our foreign tour,” Olsen said. “It was such a special moment that I will remember forever.”
Departing a team with seven underclassmen, Janota hopes her legacy is one that the younger Hawkeyes can look fondly upon.
“I hope that I have been a positive role model throughout my four years,” she said. “Demonstrating how consistent hard work, perseverance, and belief brings positive results within the Iowa volleyball program. The most exciting part is that I know the current and future Hawkeyes will continue to build this program.”
Looking forward, these five Hawkeyes have a world of possibilities ahead of them whether it is going back to school, finding a job, or taking whatever comes their way one day at a time.
“I’ll graduate in December of 2018 and plan on working at the Team Iowa Physical Theraphy Clinic in Iowa City until I go to physical therapy school in 2019,” Reuter said.
“I am planning on moving back home to Georgia, to the warmth, and finding a job using my finance degree,” Olsen said. “Hopefully I’ll get a dog. Oh, and I am also getting married in June.”
In the end, volleyball has provided more for these Hawkeyes than they could have imagined and given them the tools to succeed as an alum.
“College volleyball teaches you how to work together as a team as well as how to bring your individual strengths to the table,” O’Neill said. “It pulls out your leadership qualities and teaches you how to get through the tough moments but also enjoy the good ones. That’s what I will take with me.”
By JACK ROSSI