Despite the Iowa volleyball team winning no more than 13 matches in a single season since 2009, new coach Bond Shymansky is aiming for the 20-win level this fall as the program begins a transition under the Iowa City native.
Hired away from Marquette in January, Shymansky takes over one of the Big Ten's worst teams in recent years.
But for a club that went 11-21 (2-18 Big Ten) in 2013, there are six starters returning along with six well-regarded recruits.
Perhaps this is Year One of the turnaround.
"A successful season for us needs to be measurable," Shymansky said Tuesday at Iowa's volleyball media day. "We need to talk about wins and losses. … The number I want to put out to them is 20. How are we working to get to 20 wins? We'll figure out how that is and who that is. I suspect there will be matches that we lose that we didn't envision losing, and there will be matches that we win that our opponent couldn't envision us beating them, and that's fine."
The core already in place lends optimism to a schedule that features three straight early-season tournaments, a matchup with Iowa State in Ames and then the Big Ten slate.
Senior outside hitter Alex Lovell, senior middle Alessandra Dietz and sophomore setter Alyssa Klostermann are the key returnees for the Hawkeyes. Lovell ranks 14th all-time at Iowa with 1,099 kills and has appeared in every match and set in her collegiate career. She started every match her sophomore and junior seasons.
Having played for a different coach her first three years, the Leonard, Mich., native welcomed the change in leadership.
"We've made a lot of progress so far, adapting to a new offense, new defense — basically our entire game has changed," Lovell said. "The level of play and the level (Shymansky) was expecting were a lot higher than the expectations in the past. I think the competitiveness is the biggest difference.
"Everyone is competing for a top-six position right now, and that depth is definitely important. The B-side is what makes the A-side better. You can't have a championship team without a group effort and people behind you. You may not have the playing time, but they are still responsible for getting the team where it is."
Style of play will be one large difference as Iowa progresses.
Lovell has been impressed with the system Shymansky is continuing to install, hinged on a fast-paced offense. More than half the roster is 6-feet tall or shorter.
"The Big Ten traditionally is hard-hitting teams, and there hasn't really been a fast, scrappy program," she said. "The Big Ten is known for two things: a lot of tall girls and they hit the ball really hard. We're not all 6-2, we're not the tallest team in the Big Ten, but we can beat those tall teams with our fast-paced offense."
After beginning the 2013 campaign 9-2, Iowa stalled. The Hawkeyes lost 19 of their final 21 matches. Moreover, they won only 14 sets the rest of the season in those 21 contests.
With only 12 Big Ten wins in the last five years combined, there is no other way around it: Iowa was the bottom feeder of the conference.
That needs to change, and apparently will.
"We have talked a lot about coming in to a gym and rather than the other team being like 'Oh, there's Iowa,' we want it to be 'Oh, there's Iowa,'" Klostermann said. "We want to be the people that put the pressure on, not the pressure taking over us. That's what Bond has changed and put in our mind. It has been nothing but positive acts. The skill set he's implemented and taught is going to be there to put us over the top."