There was a major shake up in the Iowa volleyball program this summer. Coach Bond Shymansky was fired on June 19th after initially being put on administrative leave May 20th. While their were rumors of benefits being provided to a player that came to Iowa with Shymansky from Marquette, after the firing, Shymansky released a statement basically saying that a scholarship was promised to a player that she didn’t get so he helped her pay rent.
While we ultimately only got to hear Shymansky’s side of the story, there certainly are questions that arose such as, “who promised the player a scholarship and then why wasn’t it honored”? I doubt if we’ll ever know the full story but with the firing, Iowa may have avoided any NCAA sanctions.
What we do know is that the new head coach (interim) of the Hawkeyes is Vicki Brown. Brown was an assistant with Iowa last season and before that she was the head coach at the University of San Francisco. She played her collegiate volleyball at the University of Illinois where she was a middle hitter.
Last year the Hawkeyes finished 15-16 (7-13 in conference play). On the surface this doesn’t look very good, but remember that the Big Ten is the premier conference for volleyball. Last year, seven teams made the NCAA tourney with Nebraska finishing second to Stanford in the national title match.
This year, there are five Big Ten teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 10 and seven teams ranked in the top 25. A .500 record for Iowa would be a remarkable achievement.
While the school is working on providing the team with their own facilities, Shymansky (and now Brown) keep working to bring in higher ranked recruits. Traditionally, Iowa didn’t get the best players from the state or even legacy type athletes. A couple of recent examples include A.J. Epenesa’s older sister Samantha (who went on to star at Purdue) and Pilot Grove, IA resident Mikaela Foecke (who starred at Nebraska). Iowa already has two recruits committed from the class of 2022, with the class of 2020 and 2021 already being filled, so the program looks to continue to build.
Making our mark already on Xtream Arena! pic.twitter.com/6auqmo16bU— Iowa Volleyball (@IowaVolleyball) August 22, 2019
Coach Brown and her team will have their hands full this season as they are scheduled to play 14 matches against teams ranked in the opening AVCA Coaches Top 25 rankings. They get started right away having to travel to Virginia where they will meet #22 ranked Washington State on Saturday morning.
The toughest stretch in the schedule will undoubtedly be from November 13 - November 23. During that period, the Hawkeyes play four times on the road against ranked conference opponents (Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota).
While it will once again be a challenging season, let’s talk about some of the players that will try to navigate through and earn some victories. Perhaps to bring some clarity, we’ll talk about some players that are no longer there and what they contributed and then talk about who will be leading the 2019 Hawkeyes.
Gone but not forgotten.
SR Taylor Louis: Team leading 430 kills on 1,156 attempts.
SR Reghan Coyle: Second on team with 323 kills, third in blocks with 77.
SR Molly Kelly: Led the team with 619 digs and 24 service aces.
JR Cali Hoye: Third on team with 294 kills but first in kills per set at 3.82.
So my astute math skills shows that losing the top three kill producers (1,047 kills) represents 67.68% of the total team kills to be replaced. A lot to replace, but a lot of opportunities for other players to step up.
Returning and ready to run the show.
When you talk about returners, you start with setter Brie Orr. The junior from Minnesota has run a 5-1 offense for the past two years amassing over 1,200 assists each of those years. She will provide stability and experience at a crucial position.
Brie Orr reached 1,200 assists in each of her last two seasons with @IowaVolleyball and set a career-high of 59 assists in a single game last season. #B1GVolleyball pic.twitter.com/RtJEGc5VPG— Big Ten Volleyball (@B1GVolleyball) August 27, 2019
Orr will most likely be setting senior Meghan Buzzerio, her sophomore sister Courtney Buzzerio, sophomores Amiya Jones and Hannah Clayton, and junior Griere Hughes. Of this group, only Jones and Meghan Buzzerio have much experience as they each had around 160 kills last season.
Defensively, look for junior Halle Johnston and sophomore Maddie Slagle to take over for Kelly. Each had more than 100 digs last season.
Get your head back in the game for the 2019 season with @IowaVolleyball. #B1GVolleyball pic.twitter.com/l0tNzQAoGQ— Big Ten Volleyball (@B1GVolleyball) August 26, 2019
Fri/Sat Aug 30, 31: James Madison Tourney (Harrisonburg, VA) - Stony Brook, #22 Washington State, and James Madison.