Lovell ends up with volleyball coach Shymansky, after all

Matt Cozzi
Iowa's Alex Lovell, right, returns a volley against Iowa State on Sept. 21, 2013, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Lovell is a senior on this year's Iowa squad.

Alex Lovell is playing her final season on the Iowa volleyball team under new coach Bond Shymansky, but there was a chance she could have spent her first three years playing for Shymansky instead.

Shymansky took the Iowa job in January after five seasons at Marquette, where Lovell once aspired to play.

"I contacted him originally and set up a visit," Lovell said Tuesday. "I loved Marquette, and I really wanted to go to Marquette. Then they didn't have a position open for me there, so I was a little bit heart broken when I got an email that pretty much said, 'no, we don't need you here.' It's funny how it ended up working out and him coming here."

Lovell is the most experienced player within the Hawkeye volleyball program.

The Leonard, Mich., native has played in every match of her career and ranks in the top-15 all-time in career kills. She leads Iowa (4-2) this season with 74 kills.

So it is no wonder Lovell is someone Shymansky can lean on, someone that brings stability to not only the lineup on the court but also the dynamic of the team off it.

But the relationship lifted off slowly.

"The buy in, the trust, the belief — that all takes a little bit of time," Shymansky said. "I think this spring was tough for her, and was tough for me with her. I was trying to figure her out and she was trying to figure me out. I knew that she wanted to be the best she could be. The way I was asking her to get there was different than what she was used to. All of that change can cause a lot of friction and frustration, but she worked through it, and thankfully she did. She's an anchor for us."

The Hawkeyes enter their final non-conference tournament of the season this weekend at the SDSU Classic in Brookings, S.D.

Freshman Jess Janota has complemented Lovell this fall with 52 kills.

Alyssa Klostermann leads the team in assists with 113, while Michelle Fugarino paces the club in digs with 83.

"Alex has been a big part of Iowa volleyball the last three years," Janota said. "Her being a senior out there and me as a freshman, it has really helped me. How she deals with things on and off the court, I've kind of taken it all in."

Lovell is the only six-rotation player for the Hawkeyes.

As Iowa continues to reach its 20-win goal, the 5-11 outside hitter is trying to assume a leadership role when she can.

"I like to think I can be a leader for this team and help maintain focus and push us where we need to go," Lovell said. "Bond's expectations are totally different from what they've been in the past. But I think adjusting to that has worked really well and we've communicated well about it.

"We butted heads in the beginning a little bit, but we didn't understand where each other were coming from. We're on the same page now. I've fully bought in to his ideas and what he wants to accomplish."

There's clarity now, and the Hawkeyes need it as the team continues to progress under the new regime.

Iowa has won only 12 Big Ten matches combined since 2009. After this weekend, there is one remaining non-conference game — against Iowa State Sept. 20 — before the Big Ten opener at Nebraska Sept. 24.

"After the first practice of the pre-season, on day one, I knew it," Shymansky said. "I said 'Alex, that was a really good practice. Thanks for preparing to come in and be great this season. You've removed all doubt from me as a coach that your are going to be my starting left (outside hitter).' We haven't looked back since then."​