BY JOHN NAUGHTON
Iowa’s Sharon Dingman has been a head coach for 22 years. But that long career hasn’t stopped her from experimenting with different volleyball systems.
The Hawkeyes, who have seven players with starting experience returning, have plenty of talent and depth. Dingman has tested a new two-setter offense known as the 6-2, a rarity in the Big Ten Conference.
“We’re messing around, maybe running a 6-2,” Dingman said. “Michigan State might be the only team in the league running a 6-2.”
Iowa senior Nikki Dailey, who will enter her fourth year as a starter, may share the court with sophomore Anne Yanda and freshman Alyssa Klostermann.
“It’s a whole new look for the game,” said Dailey, who averaged 9.27 assists last year. “It’s a healthy competition. Our depth chart is really deep.”
The Hawkeyes expect the 6-2 could bring about a faster attack. The team’s experience at the net will help push the pace.
Iowa, which went 10-23 last year, is looking for a spark. The Hawkeyes were 10-9 at midseason a year ago before finishing the year with 14 straight losses in the rugged Big Ten.
The conference includes foes like national powers Penn State and Nebraska.
“Competition makes you better,” outside hitter Alex Lovell said. “Just playing in the toughest conference makes you improve.”
Lovell averaged a team-best 3.21 kills last year. Eight of the top nine attackers return. Three players who had knee injuries last fall are back on the court.
All but one letterwinner from last season’s team returns. That talent gives Dingman a sense of optimism.
“I’ve been through 27 or 28 training camps and I have to put this one as one of the best,” Dingman said.
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HAWKEYES AT A GLANCE
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
LAST YEAR: 10-23, 2-18 (12th)
COACH: Sharon Dingman
OUTLOOK: Seven starters and 15 letterwinners return from last season. The Hawkeyes have 18 players on the roster. Alex Lovell, a junior outside hitter, led the team with 3.21 kills a set. Outside hitter Rachael Bedell was next with a 2.97 average. Setter Niiki Dailey had 9.27 assists and 2.65 digs. Libero Bethany Yeager led five players with 150 or more digs with 533. Two in-state players are freshmen: Middle/outside hitter Lauren Brobst of Sioux City Heelan and setter Alyssa Klostermann of Dubuque Wahlert. The Hawkeyes are trying to break a 14-match losing streak.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Dailey has started 77 matches in her career at setter. The senior from Franklin, Wis., ranks sixth-best in Iowa history with 2,561 career assists. She played in every set lst season. Dailey had a team-best 18 double-doubles with more than 10 assists and digs in the same match. Dailey has a career-best of 60 assists in a match vs. Oakland in the 2011 season. She is a health sciences major.