Iowa volleyball comes from behind to defeat Michigan in a five-set thriller

Freshman outside hitter Nia Washington led the Hawkeyes with a career-high 16 kills.

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Isabella Cervantes

Iowa outside hitter Nia Washington prepares to serve to North Florida during a volleyball game between Iowa and North Florida at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Friday, September 16, 2022. Washington had a kill. The Hawkeyes defeated the Ospreys 3-0.

The Iowa volleyball team came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Michigan in a five-set thriller at Xtream Arena on Wednesday to end the Hawkeyes’ home table.

Iowa is now 3-16 in the Big Ten and 9-21 overall with one game left this season.

“I think the [crowd] I was really excited about the teamwork they saw tonight,” said head coach Jim Barnes. “We were down, but we pulled ourselves together and turned it around. It’s just another step towards becoming the program we want to be.”

How it happened

Michigan dominated Iowa 25-9 in the first set. The Hawkeyes had a negative batting average in the first set with four kills and nine penalties. The Wolverines averaged .348 with 12 kills.

Senior libero Mari Hinkle, who leads Iowa with 405 digs and is sixth in the conference at 4.01 digs a set, did not play Michigan through injury. Redshirt freshman Sydney Dennis started at Libero and posted a career-high 23 digs.

“Sydney played like a vet,” Barnes said. “I’m so proud of her and you can see how she’s adapting so quickly. She’s a young player and she’s going to do some big things for us.”

The second set started in the Wolverines’ favor as they took a 3-0 lead and the Hawkeyes failed to close the gap. Michigan won the second set 25-19, although Iowa improved their batting average to .250 with 17 kills.

Barnes changed things in the third set, bringing in second outside hitter Toyosi Onabanjo in the middle to block Michigan senior Jess Robinson, who ranks second in the Big Ten with a .438 batting average. Robinson finished the match with .333.

The change worked in Iowa’s favor as Onabanjo opened the third set with a block to give Iowa their first lead of the game. Michigan responded with three straight points to retake the advantage.

But in their last home game as Hawkeye, fifth-year senior middle hitter Amiya Jones responded with three straight kills to give Iowa the boost it needed. The Hawkeyes controlled the rest of the set en route to a 25-18 win.

“I was on the edge of my seat after those first two sets,” Jones said. “But we have a fire under our butts and we killed it. I’m just so proud of us and that was a great way to end our last home game.”

Iowa was grounded late in the fourth set by as many as six before kills from Onabanjo and outside hitter Addie VanderWeide helped reduce Wolverine’s lead to three. Michigan had two straight match points, but the Hawkeyes had four straight points when a kill by setter Bailey Ortega sealed the set for Iowa 26-24.

Iowa went 8-5 in the fifth set to force a Michigan timeout. The Wolverines went on a 4-0 run to tie it at 13 apiece, but the Hawkeyes scored the next two to win the set and complete the comeback.

Freshman outside hitter Nia Washington — a three-time Louisiana state champion and two-time state championship MVP selection — led the Iowa offense with a career-high 16 kills, 37 attempts and a .216 batting average.

“I wanted to risk everything and I really thank my coaches for giving me the opportunity and my parents for teaching me to be fearless,” Washington said. “I knew we were going to win this game, I felt it in me.”

Jones also recorded 16 kills with .481, followed by senior outside hitter Edina Schmidt with 11 kills with .348.


Iowa wraps up the 2022-23 season against Michigan State on November 26 at 1 p.m. in East Lansing, Michigan. The game will be streamed on BTN+.

“We just have to stay with the same mindset and commit to the kill [on Saturday]’ Washington said. “We have nothing to lose”


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