Oct. 26, 2010
By MICHELE DANNO
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Although the University of Iowa volleyball team's morale seems down after a loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 22, the team kept one thing up: almost every ball.
With "nothing left to lose" this season, UI senior Becky Walters said her squad has resorted to "scrappy" defense with the hope of keeping every ball in play and keeping everything off the floor. The match against Wisconsin was messy -- arms swinging, players falling, and balls sailing in every direction.
As a result, the team kept long rallies, and Walters said she was proud of her teammates' ability to keep fighting for every point. Yet, they ended up being defeated by the Badgers in a close 5-set match.
"We're playing scrappy defense now, and it's been getting better every day in practice," the middle blocker said. "Our mindset now is just `no worries' and we go out and play. Why not? We have nothing else to lose, so we just want to go out and play our best."
Freshman defensive specialist Bethany Yeager agreed that the Hawkeyes have improved their defense since the beginning of the season, and she considered it one of her team's "strong points."
"Most coaches obviously don't want scrappy. We want good technique, and that's what we're trying to do. But if we can get balls up being scrappy, that's what we're looking for. If scrappy is what it takes and we're winning points, then we'll be scrappy."
"In the beginning of the season, we'd have a lot of hesitation like we didn't know who was going to get what" Yeager said. "But now we have everybody going for balls. We'd rather have two people running into each other to get the ball than just letting it fall."
She noted her team's ability to fight for every point as an important way to stay afloat in the competitive Big Ten Conference, so that has been the focus in practice.
"We've been working on defense all week," Yeager said. "We're learning how to do all of our floor moves, and everybody's getting low. We're getting every ball up, and I think it showed against Wisconsin."
Still, UI head coach Sharon Dingman did not agree. She said she did not feel her team showed its efforts in practice on the court against Wisconsin, and the Hawkeyes were simply "outplayed again."
And the numbers are on Dingman's side, too. Despite their scrappy efforts, the Hawkeyes were out-dug 85-69 at the end of the five sets.
So it's back to practice for the Hawkeyes, where Yeager said the focus has been on keeping this scrappy style of play intact. She noted 6-on-6 drills and run-throughs keep the defense on its toes and prepare them for any situation.
"Most coaches obviously don't want scrappy," Yeager said. "We want good technique, and that's what we're trying to do. But if we can get balls up being scrappy, that's what we're looking for. If scrappy is what it takes and we're winning points, then we'll be scrappy."