Last time we were together, the Hawkeye Volleyball team had won seven of eight matches to improve to 9-4 on the season. However, a tough week was upcoming as the Hawks would play three conference matches in a row on the road all within six days. This trip would include matches at #7 Illinois and #3 Nebraska (the defending National Champions) sandwiched around a match at Northwestern.
Ultimately there were no surprises as the Hawks went 1-2 on the road trip. They started the trip last Friday in Champaign and dropped three straight sets to Illinois 20-25, 16-25, 20-25. Iowa couldn’t generate much momentum as the Fighting Illini had almost twice as many kills as the Hawks and hit .321 to Iowa’s .105. For those unfamiliar with what a hitting percentage represents, it is the total number of kills minus hitting errors divided by total hitting attempts. Basically, Illinois was getting three kills per ten attempts to Iowa’s one - not a strong recipe for success.
On Sunday, Iowa traveled to Evanston to take on Northwestern. The Wildcats came into the match at 10-4 but were 0-3 in the conference. In a five set battle, the Hawkeyes prevailed 22-25, 28-26, 25-11, 23-25, 15-12 to secure a valuable road victory. Iowa hit .224 on the match versus .145 for the Wildcats. Senior Taylor Louis led the way with 20 kills while teammate and fellow senior Reghan Coyle added 18 kills. Coyle also added nine blocks.
To finish out the grueling week, the Hawkeyes traveled to Lincoln to battle the defending National Champion Cornhuskers. Historically, matches against Nebraska have been quick and decisive with three set victories the commonplace. In fact, Iowa has been swept by Nebraska in 18 consecutive matches coming into the match on Wednesday.
With all the build up, you can probably guess that Iowa ended the streak of being shutout by Nebraska, but unfortunately couldn’t win the match. Iowa dropped the match three sets to one 10-25, 25-23, 15-25. 11-25. In keeping with the analysis of the hitting percentages, Nebraska outhit Iowa .373 to .071 with Iowa hitting in negative figures in the third and fourth sets.
Iowa native, and two-time NCAA Tournament MVP, Mikaela Foecke, paced the Cornhuskers with 20 kills in the match. Foecke is from West Point, Iowa - right in the middle of Hawkeye country - and was the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a high school senior. If Iowa continues improving at their current pace, future Iowa stars will be able to consider Iowa City as a viable place to play.
The Hawks, now 10-6 overall and 2-3 in conference, play twice this week as they host the #6 ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday evening for their Dig Pink event and then travel to Piscataway, NJ to play Rutgers on Wednesday.