By James Kay
The Hawkeye volleyball team (15-7) suffered its second- and third-straight conference losses this past weekend in Carver-Hawkeye, falling to No. 3 Minnesota on Oct. 21 (3-2) and to No. 4 Wisconsin on Oct. 22 (3-0).
Despite the outcomes, the team battled the top-ranked opponents hard and improved in a lot of aspects of its game that it has struggled with so far this season.
“The growth inside our program is so noticeable to so many people, and we are adding other pieces to what we typically do well,” said head coach Bond Shymansky after the loss to Wisconsin. “We typically run the offense well. Tonight, it was a little shaky at times, but we added floor defense tonight. That was the best floor defense that I’ve seen us play all season.
“All these different elements that are coming together around our program and inside of our team, this is how we are going to build a championship program in the Big Ten.”
The Hawkeyes took Minnesota to five sets but were unable to pull out the win. Senior Jess Janota led the team with 18 kills to go along with an excellent .382 hitting percentage. Senior Ashley Mariani tallied 15 kills and had a career-high .636 hitting percentage. Redshirt-freshman Meghan Buzzerio (11), sophomore Reghan Coyle (11), and senior Lauren Brobst (12) also recorded double digits in kills.
Senior Loxley Keala had an eventful night as she recorded a double-double (64 assists and 10 digs) and became the eighth Hawkeye to record 2,000 career assists.
“The offensive firepower that we have going right now is really strong and very effective,” said Shymansky in a release after the loss to Minnesota. “We are getting so much balance out of our group. Everything is coming together and clicking as a team, so there’s a lot of hope for tomorrow.”
That hope quickly dissolved as Wisconsin beat the Hawkeyes with efficiency on offense. Iowa fell in straight sets to the Badgers.
Janota shone in the loss, recording 13 kills on 23 attempts. Keala was 1 dig shy of getting her second double-double in as many games (38 assists and 9 digs).
The Hawkeyes stammered out of the gate and trailed, 20-9, in the first set, which led to Shymansky calling a time-out and sending his team to the tunnel to work things out among the players. Unfortunately, that didn’t propel the Hawkeyes as they dropped the set, 25-15.
In the second set, the Hawkeyes looked completely different; they overcame a 16-12 deficit to tie the match at 20. The Badgers remained calm and tallied 3 kills in five plays to take the second set 25-20.
In the third set, neither team was able to pull away, and there were 16 lead changes in the set. One of the hurdles for the Hawkeyes was that Wisconsin was able to stop them from going on any runs. The Badgers eventually won the set, 25-23.
The Hawkeyes will remain home on Friday and Saturday as they go up against Northwestern and Illinois.