Iowa's Annika Olsen prepares to serve the ball during a volleyball match at the Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 3 , 2016. Iowa defeated Oakland 3-0. (The Daily Iowan/Ting Xuan Tan)

Postseason chance entices Iowa volleyball


Iowa volleyball can take a step toward its postseason goals this weekend with wins against two Big Ten opponents.

By Anna Kayser

Hawkeye volleyball will return to Carver-Hawkeye this weekend for the start of a four-match home stand.

Iowa will face Indiana at 7 p.m. today, then shift the focus for a match against No. 22 Purdue at 2 p.m. Nov. 5.

“This is a huge home weekend opportunity for our team and for our program as we work to position ourselves for postseason play,” head coach Bond Shymansky said.

Beating a team twice in the Big Ten is not easy, so Iowa will have to keep its focus and play hard against Indiana for the second time this season.

In the last matchup, the Hawkeyes topped the Hoosiers, 3-1. Freshman outside hitter Claire Sheehan led Iowa with 15 kills, and senior libero Annika Olsen recorded a career-high 29 digs.

Indiana is 12-12 on the season with a 1-11 Big Ten record. Setter Victoria Brisack is a key part of the offense, ranking No. 32 in assists and No. 21 with an average 11.23 assists per set. She has led her offense to a .250 season attack percentage, good for 48th in the nation.

“Indiana had a really great middle and right-side combination,” Shymansky said. “They’ve had some health issues, injury issues in their outside spot, so if they’re healthy, they’re going to be a problem for us.”

Indiana poses a big opportunity for Iowa to get win and to move forward toward the goal of making the NCAA Tournament.

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“We’re confident, and we know that Indiana is a team that we have to get,” Olsen said. “We’re really preparing well this week, watching a lot of film and just scouting them well and knowing what we need to do on our side to beat them.”

Following the match against Indiana, Iowa will immediately have to shift focus to top-25 Purdue. The Boilermakers are 17-6, 7-5 in the Big Ten.

“Purdue is really big and physical in a couple positions … so it’s going to require a different kind of aggressiveness as an attacking group as well as a stableness as a blocking and defensive group to not let that size kind of dictate the whole flow of the match,” Shymansky said.

Purdue’s offense is ranked No. 3 in the nation with a .323 attack percentage. Its setter, Ashley Evans, helps lead the offense, which is 20th in the nation with 11.28 assists per set.

“Purdue is obviously a big match, they’ve been doing really well this season,” senior middle blocker Jess Janota said. “We always like to play them, so I think we normally play pretty good against them. It’s just another exciting match at this point in the season.”

Coming off of a hard-fought 3-1 loss against No. 10 Michigan State on Oct. 28, the Hawkeyes are confident where they are as a team.

“I think it really showed we have great resolve as a team, and it showed our true mental toughness,” Shymansky said. “I like how we’re asserting ourselves, whether we believe we’re better or not as good as our opponent, it doesn’t really matter to us anymore, and that’s a big leap for our program.”

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