By JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Walking off the court following its win over the sixth-ranked team in the nation one week ago, the University of Iowa volleyball team’s belief in themselves were validated in the biggest way.
For the first time since Nov. 11, 2009, the Hawkeyes were victorious over Wisconsin. The five-set marathon saw momentum shift back-and-forth before Iowa took control in the deciding set to give the program its biggest win in decades.
“That was definitely the top win in my career,” senior Reghan Coyle said. “Top-10 has never happened before and we haven’t beat Wisconsin in a long time.”
It started with a belief five years ago when Iowa head coach Bond Shymansky returned to his hometown with the idea of turning the Hawkeyes into a force in the Big Ten and nation.
“Players earn their own belief,” Shymansky said. “We’ve been training and preaching the same things for the past five years, but it takes a while for that to seep in and now that it has, you can feel it from every player and person inside our program and now outside our program. That is when that belief becomes powerful.”
When Coyle first stepped foot on campus four years ago, a victory over a top-10 team was only a pipe dream.
“When I was here my freshman year it was a tough environment because we didn’t believe that we could beat the teams that we played,” Coyle said. “Year-after-year that belief has grown within the program, coaching staff, and players that are coming here.”
Season-after-season, Iowa slowly established itself as a competitive team in the nation’s toughest conference, but program was stuck in neutral.
“We’ve managed to build our program to the point where we are consistently competitive inside the league and yet we have been stuck on that plateau for a while,” Shymansky said. “We needed that next boost forward. That was representative in a couple big wins this season, but none more significant than against Wisconsin.”
“It’s a belief thing,” Coyle said. “We can compete with the best teams in the nation and we can win against the best teams in the nation and we did that last weekend. That is a good confidence booster and shows where this program is heading.”
But the team is cognizant that each win must still be earned.
“We have to be cautious about the belief not becoming just an expectation,” Shymansky said. “The belief needs to fuel hard work, growth, and grit. Our task right now is to remain humble and focused.”
The Hawkeyes continue to remain mentally tough, focusing only on the next game — a matchup against 17th-ranked Purdue on Saturday night.
“Everybody is still focused on the next match,” Coyle said. “We had the belief that we could beat (Wisconsin) the whole match. Now we know the standard of intensity and belief.”
Iowa hosts the Boilermakers inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CT). Tickets are available on hawkeyesports.com/tickets or by calling the Iowa Athletic Ticket Office at 800-IA-HAWKS