Sept. 23, 2010
The University of Iowa volleyball opens Big Ten Conference play this weekend in the state of Michigan. The Hawkeyes (5-4 overall), play Michigan on Friday and Michigan State on Saturday. UI senior Becky Walters, a native of Parkersburg, Iowa, took a minute to chat with Adam Meier of hawkeyesports.com, prior to the first league road trip of the season. Walters averages 2.51 kills and 0.92 blocks per set.
How has your senior season been different compared to previous ones?
This year we've been focusing a lot more on team chemistry, so that's helped a lot. We're a really close team and we're staying positive despite our last three losses. Things should be looking up as we go into the Big Ten season.
In what ways have you taken your individual game up a notch now that it's your final go-around?
Physically I'm in better shape this year. A bunch of us stayed here this summer and lifted and conditioned; just being a senior and taking a leadership role and stepping up with that I think has changed a lot this year as well.
How valuable has your experience been for the team as a whole?
The fact I needed surgery and overcoming that kind of motivates them as players, so that's really cool -- also just seeing me lead by example and everything like that.
Do you find yourself doing a lot of teaching or mentoring to the younger players?
Not really. Everyone this year, when they do mess up, they know what they need to change. The coaches do a good job of letting everyone know. We work hard on correcting our own mistakes. We know what we need to change, it's just a matter of changing it and being consistent with changing it.
Speaking of the younger players, how have they been dealing with everything?
I have never seen a group of freshmen integrate so well. They were a little nervous coming in, but I think the first day that they came in -- they were just such a part of the team already -- it was awesome. They took a step up really quick.
How much do the nonconference games prepare the team for the rugged Big Ten schedule?
It's absolutely crucial. We have a good nonconference schedule and we played a lot tougher teams this year, which I think has prepared us for the Big Ten schedule because every game we go into now is going to be a battle. There's no easy game in the Big Ten.
What's the biggest challenge you expect to encounter the duration of the season?
I think just reducing our errors. We need to be patient and force the other team to make errors and give us a chance to play defense. We're not a first-ball-kill team, so we need to focus on having the fundamentals right. We don't have the 6-foot-5 front row that everyone else does, so we just need to do fundamentals perfectly.
What will you consider a successful senior campaign?
The NCAA's; if we make it to the NCAA Tournament. That's our main goal. I want everyone to have fun, but we'll define our season by if we make the NCAA's or not because this is a team that can do it.
You've been here longer than Coach Sharon Dingman. Are there ways you have been an instructor to her?
Being a team captain it's important keeping the coaches and the players on the same page. I think just helping her out with what the team feels about certain things and certain issues; keeping her informed on what page the team is on is important.
How close have you and coach Dingman gotten through the past three years?
This year has been a great year for us. We've gotten really close. Through my knee surgery, she helped me overcome that and overcome the mentality thing. Being a team captain, we have to stay on the same page. I've communicated with her more this year and she understands me more as well, too.
Penn State has already lost this year. How special would it be to do what Stanford did to the Nittany Lions?
That is so exciting. The Big Ten is a great conference, but looking at it now, every team in the Big Ten is beatable. That could make for a really exciting season for us.
What's on the agenda following the season?
I do not know yet. I'm focused on volleyball and school right now. It's my last season so that's where all my focus is.