The University of Iowa volleyball team is scheduled to take on Big Ten Conference opponents, the Fighting Illini and the Wildcats in the second weekend of conference play, September 28th and 30th.
by Megan Sprengeler
IOWA CITY, Iowa – There is no rest for the wicked as the University of Iowa volleyball team heads east to Illinois for another tough weekend of Big Ten Conference play.
The unranked Hawkeyes will take on the No. 7 Fighting Illini at 7 P.M. at the University of Illinois on Friday, September 28th to open the weekend, followed by a 1 P.M. match against the unranked Wildcats at Northwestern University on Sunday, September 30th.
“It’s fun being at home and having a home court advantage,” junior outside hitter Cali Hoyle said, “but being away and having people yelling at us really fires us up and gets us going.”
Iowa’s momentum sparked from a win over South Dakota State on Sept. 8. Since the 3-0 sweep of the Jackrabbits, the Hawkeyes went on a seven-game winning streak, defeating in-state rival Iowa State along the way.
The Hawkeyes opened Big Ten Conference play on their home court against note-worthy programs, Michigan (12-1) and Michigan State (12-3).
“We’re capable of beating anyone. [Beating] Michigan State was a great way to start off,” senior libero Molly Kelly said. “We just have to keep the ball rolling with it.”
The Michigan Wolverines (No. 17) handed Iowa their first loss in weeks at Carver Hawkeye-Arena on September 23rd. The Hawkeyes dropped the hard-fought, point-for-point match 25-22, 28-30, 25-23, 25-22.
“We had great moments, but we weren’t consistent throughout and that’s what ended up costing us,” Kelly said.
Illinois comes into week two boasting a clean 13-0 record, moving up one spot in the rankings after week one.
Unranked Northwestern dropped their first two Big Ten Conference matches to the Indiana Hoosiers and the Purdue Boilmakers and enter week two of conference play 10-4 overall.
“We’re going to use [the scouting report] a lot more against [Illinois and Northwestern],” sophomore setter Brie Orr said.
The Hawkeyes will do their best to prepare for their upcoming opponents thanks, in large part, to one theme that prevails regardless of outside circumstances, on and off the court.
Iowa stays disciplined when it comes to embodying its team motto: true mental toughness, better known to the volleyball team as, “Mission TMT.”
“The four tenants [of TMT] are treating others well, giving your very best, having a great attitude, and being unconditionally grateful regardless of your circumstances,” Kelly said. “The whole concept is that you can always get better in each of those four areas. It’s a day-in and day-out thing.”
Iowa’s defense will need to be geared up for an all-out battle with Illinois, who have recorded four front row players swinging .300 or above in kill percentage (346 kills on 734 attempts), whereas Northwestern only has one player hitting above a .300 so far this season.
Big Ten Conference volleyball dominates the NCAA division-1 rankings, taking up half of the spots in the top-10 and seven of the spots in the top-20.
Iowa remains unranked going into week two with a 9-4 record, making it clear that the black and gold have their work cut out for them.