Aug. 23, 2010
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Friday, Aug. 13, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2010-11 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Mallory Husz comes from a family of nurses, so it seems fitting that as a third-grader she decided to pursue that career. Her relatives also love the sport of basketball, but volleyball is where Husz, a University of Iowa junior, makes her living athletically.
Raised in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Husz was geographically closer to Lincoln and the University of Nebraska than to Iowa City while growing up.
"I was a huge Husker fan and I had their posters on my walls," says Husz. "I never thought about the Hawkeyes, but I took a visit and ended up loving the campus. This is the furthest east I've gone on this side of the state."
The move east has helped the UI volleyball program move north in the Big Ten Conference standings. Former head coach Cindy Fredrick recruited Husz into the Hawkeye program, but following a 1-19 league record in 2007, Fredrick was replaced by Sharon Dingman.
"We started off at the bottom of the Big Ten, which is something I kind of liked coming in," Husz says. "That way I could be part of the change. I saw the potential we had and then (coach Dingman) really turned the program around."
The Hawkeyes were 14-18 (6-14 in the Big Ten) in 2008 and 13-19, 5-15 in 2009 -- the finest two-year stretch in nine seasons. Husz was named academic all-Big Ten as a sophomore when she played 26 matches (71 sets) with 16 starts. She averaged 1.59 kills and 0.90 blocks per set from her middle blocker position. Husz is majoring in interdepartmental studies (health sciences track) and health and sports studies with a health emphasis. She is also pursuing a minor in sociology.
"My grandma's a nurse, I have two aunts that are nurses, my mom's a nurse, my two sisters are nurses," Husz says. "Since I was in third grade I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I was a CNA (certified nurse assistant) in high school and I loved it. That's the worst position in the hospital, so if you love that, you're going to love nursing."
"We started off at the bottom of the Big Ten, which is something I kind of liked coming in. That way I could be part of the change. I saw the potential we had and then (coach Dingman) really turned the program around."
UI junior Mallory Husz
Time-wise, the combination of Division I volleyball and chasing a nursing career was not possible at the UI, so Husz will attend a one-year accelerated school when her Hawkeye playing days end. Dingman calls Husz's selflessness a virtue that makes her a good volleyball teammate as well as a reason why she will make an exceptional nurse.
"She cares for humanity. That's kind of a global statement, but she really does," says Dingman. "Mallory is the one who is going to walk into the gym with a smile on her face and ask everyone else how their day has been, regardless of what kind of day she has had. She never looks for attention to come back to her. She's always a giving person."
Husz was a three-sport star at Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs. She was a state meet participant in track and earned all-state honors in basketball and volleyball. As a senior in basketball, Husz averaged 15.8 points per game as a 6-foot point guard.
"That was probably the hardest decision (to choose volleyball over basketball in college)," says Husz. "My family loves basketball, but I'm happy with my decision."
So are the Hawkeyes. Dingman enjoys the team-first concept exhibited by Husz, who represents the UI in many ways off the court as well. In the spring Husz organized several visits to local nursing homes and she made certain that the rest of the Hawkeye volleyball players were trained for the community service trips.
"Mallory embodies everything we want our program to stand for," Dingman says. "She does well in the classroom and she is our leader when it comes to community service. We expect her to do well on the court and she's one of our leaders on the court. She will not be a leader that leads from the top down -- she wants it to be collaborative. She values input from every teammate that she has and she is very respectful."
Six Big Ten Conference teams combined for a 16-5 record in the most recent NCAA Tournament with Penn State winning its third consecutive national championship. Other league qualifiers were Minnesota (4-1), Michigan (3-1), Illinois (2-1), Ohio State (1-1) and Michigan State (0-1).
"It's kind of a surreal experience going from a small high school gym to thousands of people watching you. It's been an awesome experience having that many fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and hopefully it will only increase."
UI junior Mallory Husz
"Every night you need to compete your hardest," Husz says. "There is no one you're going to walk all over. Going against Penn State and beating them in a set (Oct. 2, 2009, at University Park, Pa.) was awesome and something I'll never forget."
Current players like Husz, as well as highly-touted incoming recruits, have boosted expectations around Carver-Hawkeye Arena -- a home for the UI volleyball team that is in the midst of a state-of-the-art makeover that will make it one of the finest facilities in the land.
"Having a separate gym for us is going to help because we'll be able to practice whenever we want," Husz says. "It will be a smaller enclosed area which is good for volleyball."
A year ago, the Hawkeyes became the third team in program history to start a season 6-0. Iowa ranked 23rd nationally in attendance, averaging a school-record 1,632 fans in 13 home contests. Iowa has set season attendance records in each of Dingman's two years as coach. The Hawkeyes topped the 3,000-fan mark for the first time in program history Nov. 7, 2009, when 3,102 fans saw them host Penn State. Since Dingman joined the program, Iowa has experienced eight of the school's top 10 all-time attendance records.
"It's kind of a surreal experience going from a small high school gym to thousands of people watching you," Husz says. "It's been an awesome experience having that many fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and hopefully it will only increase."
When the Hawkeyes return to the court Aug. 27, look for Husz -- one of seven upperclassmen on the roster -- to increase her leadership role.
"I want to be a role model for the incoming freshmen, the little girls in the crowd and all the kids back home," Husz says. "That's always been my goal as an athlete and being an upperclassman makes it easier to fill that role."