By CARI GOLD
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa volleyball team had another solid season in 2017, posting an 18-15 overall and 7-13 record in the Big Ten. After going 19-13 in 2016, the Hawkeyes have posted their first back-to-back winning seasons since accomplishing the feat in five straight from 1986-90.
The progress is proof of the growth under Iowa head coach Bond Shymansky, but he knows there are more goals to achieve.
“(The progress) has been remarkable at times, but it has been slow and steady at other times, so patience is the hardest part,” said Shymansky. “There is no doubt that we had a lot of work to do to get to this point. Our first year, we were high hundreds in RPI, and we have chipped away each year. Last year, we finished in the 70s and this year we were right around 50 and on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament.”
Although the Hawkeyes came up just short of an NCAA Tournament bid, being on the bubble is another step in the right direction.
“When I first got here, the thought of making the NCAA Tournament was not really in the picture,” said senior Annika Olsen. “We didn’t make it this year, but we were so close. Even though that’s hard, it was cool to bring the program to a place where we are expecting to make the tournament and disappointed when we don’t.”
The Hawkeyes have a lot to look forward to, and the seniors had a huge impact on improving the program.
Three Hawkeyes — Olsen, Taylor Louis, and Jess Janota — earned All-Big Ten honors for the first time since 1989. Olsen finished her career ranked fifth all-time in digs (1,556), while Janota had 1,080 kills — a mark that ranks No. 16 in the record books.
“I’m proud of how all five of our seniors finished the season,” said Shymanksy. “They worked hard to build our program to the position it is in now, and they can look back and be proud of the steps forward we have taken and know that they are a huge part of that.”
Looking ahead, the Hawkeyes’ future is bright. Although the program loses five seniors — Olsen, Janota, Kelsey O’Neill, Kasey Reuter, and Taylin Alm — to graduation, the team will continue on its mission of True Mental Toughness.
“Next year is my senior season, so I’m excited to end on a good note,” said junior Reghan Coyle. “I want to get to the NCAA Tournament. We were close this year, and that’s what we want to do next year. I am excited to continue the rise of Iowa volleyball in the Big Ten.”
Shymansky is encouraged by the 2017 season, and he looks forward to seeing what next year will hold for the program.
“I see us as being a viable competitor inside of our league, and so does our team,” said Shymansky. “That’s the most important part. They are the ones that have to do it on the court, so they have to believe. It’s not enough for me to believe in them, they have to believe in themselves and believe in each other as teammates. There was great improvement for our program overall, and I know they are all looking forward to next year.”