Aug. 21, 2007
IOWA CITY - Head Coach Cindy Fredrick and the 2007 Iowa volleyball team will look to use veteran leadership and talented newcomers to make a move in the Big Ten Conference. The Hawkeyes have seen steady improvement over the past three seasons and Fredrick expects bigger things from her team in 2007.
"We were really pleased with how the spring went," Fredrick said. "I think the athletes have more of an understanding on just how tough Big Ten volleyball is after last season. You could really see the determination in their faces when we were training in the spring. I think our team is more game savvy, which will be a benefit when the Big Ten season rolls around."
The Hawkeyes return four starters and seven letterwinners from the 2006 squad. The majority the returners are underclassmen who have seen a large amount of playing time. Fredrick's team has just one senior in Stacy Vitali, but four juniors who have been on the court since their freshman campaign.
"With only one senior on the team, our juniors will have to take the team on their shoulders and run with it," Fredrick said. "They've gained a lot of experience in their first two seasons and we really need them to produce this year."
The following is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2007 Hawkeyes.
"I think the athletes have more of an understanding on just how tough Big Ten volleyball is after last season. You could really see the determination in their faces when we were training in the spring. I think our team is more game savvy, which will be a benefit when the Big Ten season rolls around."
Head Coach Cindy Fredrick
Fredrick will look for junior Laura Kremer and redshirt freshman Becky Walters to fill the voids left by two graduated seniors. The Hawkeyes lost Jen Barcus and Melanie Meister, the top two blockers a year ago.
Kremer saw action in 27 games last season and averaged 0.93 blocks per game. Fredrick believes that if Kremer can stay healthy, she'll have a big fall for the Black and Gold.
"Laura has improved every season," Fredrick said. "She has battled some serious injuries since she got here, but she had a tremendous spring and is really showing a desire to be on the court."
Walters has yet to see action for the Hawkeyes, after redshirting last season. The Parkersburg, IA, native was an all-state selection in high school and Fredrick is confident she can step up to the challenge.
"We haven't had someone with Becky's height since we've been at Iowa," Fredrick said. "She has the potential to be dominating. She has to step up pretty quickly, but she is an aggressive player who can put up a very solid block."
Iowa will also look to a local athlete for help in the middle. Freshman Katie Kennedy, a native of Iowa City, will see playing time along with Kremer and Walters.
"Katie can read and sense where the ball is going to be," Fredrick said. "She will need to adjust to the speed of the Big Ten game, but she is a very talented freshman."
Iowa returns junior Catherine Smale and sophomore Megan Schipper to the attack this season. Both players picked up valuable experience last season and hope to make their mark on the Hawkeye record books.
Smale didn't suffer the "sophomore slump" last season. She followed her record-breaking freshman campaign with another solid season in 2006. She led the team with 366 kills and was second on the team with 374 digs.
"Catherine is definitely a quiet leader for us on the court," Fredrick said. "She is steady and smart. This season, however, we need her to get some more fire and she needs to learn how to color outside the lines."
Schipper had a strong finish to the 2006 season, recording 189 kills in 88 games. Fredrick hopes Schipper can build off her success and carry it into her sophomore season.
"Megan really came into her own last fall," Fredrick said. "She kept improving and we just had to keep her on the court. She has a great learning curve and shined as a freshman. She has a positive attitude and just loves to hit the ball hard."
Two freshman, Megan Eskew and Katie Wessels, could see time alongside Smale and Schipper. Eskew is from Schererville, IN, and Fredrick believes her knowledge of the game could help the Hawkeyes this fall.
"Megan is aggressive and confident," Fredrick said. "She is an outstanding ball-handler and is smart when it comes to competition."
Wessels, a native of Manchester, IA, will add athleticism and depth to the outside.
"Katie is a great addition," Fredrick said. "She is an all-around athlete. Her high school experience, with a great team in Iowa, will help her as a Hawkeye."
Senior Stacy Vitali will lead the attack from the right side. The St. Charles, IL, native hopes to have a healthy senior year. The injury bug has haunted her throughout her Iowa career. Vitali played in 29 games last season and registered 47 kills. Fredrick hopes Vitali can shine in her final season as a Hawkeye.
"Stacy has experienced every injury a volleyball player can have," Fredrick said. "We hope she can really step it up as a senior. We really need her to play like a senior."
Freshman Aimee Huffman will also have an immediate impact this fall. Huffman, a Poth, TX, native, was a high school all-American and a four-time first team all-state selection. She could see time on the right side or as a setter, adding versatility to an already deep Hawkeye squad.
"Aimee is the definition of a utility player," Fredrick said. "She is very athletic and can play several positions on the court. She is a quiet, but skilled player and a great addition to our team."
Junior Kiley Fister returns as the primary setter in 2007 after another solid season. Fister started and played in every game last season and put up 1,224 assists (10.64 per game) and ranks fifth on the all-time assist list at Iowa.
"Kiley improved a lot, this spring, in terms of consistency," Fredrick said. "The key for Kiley in the front row will be blocking. She will have to stop a lot of talented left side hitters in the Big Ten, but her experience should come through."
Christina Meister also returns as a setter, but could see time as a defensive specialist. Meister played in 34 games last season and tallied 45 digs.
"Christina might see a different role this season," Fredrick said. "She can play either position for us, which is a great thing to have."
Junior Emily Hiza will captain the team from the libero position. Hiza played in 115 games a year ago and led the team with 545 digs (4.74 per game). Fredrick likes Hiza's passion and hopes her team captain will lead by example this season.
"You won't find a more dedicated person to the game and to Iowa volleyball than Emily," Fredrick said. "She has the ability to take over a match. She would run through a brick wall for her team. You can't ask anything more out of your captain."
Yet another local freshman could have an impact this season. Iowa City native Signe Mueller impressed Fredrick with her steady play and will bring a competitive spirit to the court.
"Signe is very athletic and competitive," Fredrick said. "Competition among teammates is always a good thing, and Signe will bring that type of attitude to our team."
Freshman Samantha Brannigan will also add depth to the Hawkeye defense. Fredrick is excited to see how she will adapt in her first season.
"Samantha is a good defensive player and will give us even more depth," Fredrick said. "She is also a talented passer."