Nov. 27, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa volleyball team will lose a guiding presence in senior Allison Straumann heading into 2013, but the Hawkeyes have a key core returning to the mix.
"Alli has been a tremendous senior leader for this team," said UI head coach Sharon Dingman. "It is so hard to be the only senior. She has persevered throughout her career and has been an absolute joy to coach for four years. I am really going to miss her in the gym every day. She is everything you want a senior to be."
Straumann, the lone senior on the roster, played in 71 career matches, registering 264 career digs. Her senior season was highlighted by back-to-back, career high, 16-dig performances against Minnesota and Wisconsin. She ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten in service aces for most of the conference season.
The Hawkeyes will look to replace Straumann's leadership and production with a key core of returning sophomores and juniors, many of which are climbing up the all-time ranking lists.
Sophomore Alex Lovell finished the year with a team-high 382 kills, the most in a single season since Catherine Smale posted 441 in 2005. She was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Oct. 8 for her efforts in Iowa's two road victories at Indiana (3-1) and No. 12 Purdue (3-0).
It marked Iowa's first Player of the Week honor since Sept. 18, 2006, when Melanie Meister received the recognition. It was also the Hawkeyes' first weekly honor since Christina Meister was tabbed Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 7, 2009. The Leonard, Mich., native equaled junior Rachael Bedell with a team-best 37 kills in the two wins, hitting a team-high .297.
"Alex continues to mature," said Dingman of Lovell, who has led Iowa in kills in each of her first two seasons. "She is going to be a great outside hitter in this league the next couple of years. It was really fun to watch her play this season. She is very confident when she swings."
Fellow sophomore Alessandra Dietz and Bedell ranked third and second, respectively, in kills this season. Dietz, in her first year at Iowa after transferring from Loyola-Marymount, posted 198 kills and led the Hawkeyes with 25 service aces. Bedell registered a career bests in kills (339) and digs (186).
"It is easy to forget that this is Alessandra's first year with us and really her first year to play college volleyball," said Dingman. "She played very little last year at her former school. She is essentially a starting middle in the Big Ten. I am so pleased with what Alessandra has brought to this program and how she has played."
"It was great to see a player like Rachael, who started as a freshman but played less as a sophomore, have a great junior year."
Junior Nikki Dailey registered 1,103 assists this year, leading the Hawkeyes for the second-straight season. She ranks sixth all-time in program history with 2,561 assists. The setter led the team in double-doubles for the second-consecutive year, posting 18.
Junior Bethany Yeager totaled a career-best 533 digs in 2012. The 533 digs are the most in a season since 2006, when Emily Hiza registered 545. Yeager, who has led the Hawkeyes in digs in each of her first three seasons, ranks fifth all-time in program history (1,522 digs). She is on pace to become Iowa's all-time digs leader.
"Our most consistent player throughout the season was Bethany," said Dingman. "Every day in the gym she practices, trains and competes hard. She does everything you would want your libero to do."