Aug. 19, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Becky Walters was a multi-sport athlete at Aplington-Parkersburg (Iowa) High School, but none of those sports was wrestling. Sharon Dingman, who coaches Walters in volleyball at the University of Iowa, refers to the 6-foot-3 middle blocker as her `Hawkeye wrestler.'
"A lot of coaches at Iowa use our wrestling team as an example," Dingman told a gathering of media Thursday in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena Press Room. "It's a lifestyle for our wrestlers every single day and Becky has grabbed a hold of that. If we have a wrestler on our team, it's Becky."
Walters, a team captain along with fellow senior Signe Mueller, will lead the Hawkeyes into action Friday, Aug. 27, when they host Alabama in the Hawkeye Challenge. All the Iowa coaches and volleyball student-athletes were available for media day Thursday.
"We are doing things today that we weren't doing a year ago at this time in the season or two years ago at this time in the season," Dingman said. "I attribute that to two things: our returning players were all very committed, so they fulfilled their obligation as far as being committed to what they needed to do in the summer; and our freshmen are pretty talented."
"We've been able to move pretty fast with them," Dingman said. "They have high volleyball IQs -- all four of them have really good skills, so we've been able to progress quickly."
"I have never seen a group of freshmen come in and integrate so well," Walters said. "They bought into every part of this program and it's almost like they've been here for one or two years. We're not trying to get them to our level of play -- they're really good with the fast-paced playing."
The Hawkeyes were 14-18 in 2008 and 13-19 in 2009. Now Dingman and the Hawkeyes have the postseason on their minds.
"I like this group; I love how hard they play," Dingman said. "They have a clear understanding of what it's going to take from us to reach our goal which is an NCAA tournament bid. This year we have to do it; there's no other avenue to go except to the NCAA Tournament. We're pretty excited; we think we have a good group that will get us there."
Not only will it be an interesting season for the Hawkeyes on the court, but their surroundings are getting a state-of-the-art upgrade with the renovation of Carver-Hawkeye Arena that is scheduled to be completed in August, 2011.
"We are doing things today that we weren't doing a year ago at this time in the season or two years ago at this time in the season. I attribute that to two things: our returning players were all very committed, so they fulfilled their obligation as far as being committed to what they needed to do in the summer; and our freshmen are pretty talented."
UI head volleyball coach Sharon Dingman
"The players are thrilled, they're so excited," Dingman said. "They see what's coming for next year and it's going to be an amazing building. It's the function we're excited about. The players see the really cool locker room, but as coaches we see the function of having another gym available for us and men's and women's basketball. We're very, very excited."
Dailey and junior Paige Stevens are competing at setter, a spot that causes Dingman some angst considering Stevens is the veteran and has played 38 career sets.
"It's from an experience standpoint. Paige has limited experience other than she's been in a college gym for two years, so she needs to draw on that experience," Dingman said. "Nikki's a freshman...freshman setters are what they are. She has a lot to learn about how to run an offense and grasping that at the college level."
"You have to get to a point where you look at long-term life situation," Dingman said. "Both of them made very mature decisions. As hard as it is to end your career sooner than you thought, it was mature on their part to understand they have a life ahead of them they want to live and be able to lift their kids up and do things like that. For our team, it's a significant loss -- they both had a lot of experience."
Even with Huffman's exit, the UI roster is still dotted with three players from the state of Texas -- Yeager (Brenham), Thompson (Hurst) and Bedell (Plano). Dingman credits assistant coach Jason Allen for his recruiting efforts in the Lone Star State.
"He came in with a very established relationship in Texas," Dingman. "Right now Texas is the hotbed. Everybody is getting into Texas and recruiting Texans. We were fortunate enough to land three of them and get them up to Iowa and convince them that winter really isn't that long. People are getting into Texas and we're not alone."
The Hawkeyes host their annual Black & Gold Scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 20, inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 7 p.m.
Click HERE for 2010 season ticket information.