MASON CITY | The NIACC volleyball team is in need of a few wins over the final few weeks of the season.
With four home matches on four of the next five outings, Lady Trojans coach Chris Brandt was looking for positive things starting on Wednesday.
Unfortunately for NIACC, Northeast Community College played a strong, fundamentally-sound match and was able to cruise to a 3-0 win over the mistake-prone Lady Trojans.
Set scores were 25-15, 25-15 and 15-10.
“We have an amazing amount of talent,” Brandt said. “But we just give our opponents a lot of points.”
NIACC struggled from the outset as the Hawks built a quick 18-7 lead in the first set.
While the Lady Trojans occasionally struggled getting the ball in the correct position to effectively run their offense, Northeast had no problem finding outside hitters Monqiue Shafer and Macy Stewart.
NIACC made a bit of a run late in the set, and Brandt was looking for some momentum in set two, but a six-point Hawks run early again put the Trojans on the defensive.
NIACC pulled within 18-13 in a set it needed to win, but another five-point Northeast run put the second set out of reach.
Northeast then dominated play at the net in the third set and closed out the match.
Hannah Wagner and Shelby Heston, a pair of freshmen hitters who have been among the Lady Trojan kill leaders all season, had five kills apiece to lead the NIACC offense.
Sydney Roush, a freshman setter, had 14 assists while Wagner and Connor Gauch had eight digs apiece.
NIACC (4-14) will look to pick up a couple of home victories on Saturday when the Lady Trojans play host to Anoka-Ramsey and Marshalltown Community College, beginning at noon.
“It’s nice that we don’t have to travel,” Brandt said. “We are trying to find a court leader, and they still need to decide how to be a team.”
The grind of being a Division I athlete is not one that comes easy, no matter the sport.
If there’s one thing former Mason City standout golfer Jared Rowe has taken away from his experience with the Northern Iowa men’s golf team it’s just that.
But in his final season with the Panthers, the grind is beginning to pay off. Rowe was UNI’s top finisher this week at the Zach Johnson Invite at Glen Oaks Country Club in Des Moines. Rowe finished the 54-hole event with a 224, which had him in a tie for 12th place.
“It’s been a lot of work but it’s a lot of mindset,” Rowe said. “I noticed a big change right away and didn’t realize how much different college was from high school. I’ve played some good rounds this fall and it’s nice to come out my senior year and play well in the first couple of meets.”
Climbing the hill to get here was a struggle, though.
After four strong years at Mason City, Rowe redshirted his first year on campus, and competed in a few meets the following year. But it was another strong showing at the Zach Johnson Invite during that fall that gave him a little spark.
Then came a year Rowe would rather forget on the golf course.
“Last year was just a tough year on the golf course,” he said. “I was struggling with a couple of things with my swing … but it’s nice to go out here in my senior year and it’s been a great experience to have.”
Even though he’s technically a redshirt junior with one year left of eligibility after the spring season completes, Rowe will call it a career when the year is done.
For someone who has been grinding since he was young, he said he’s ready for the next chapter.
“It’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed it,” Rowe said. “I haven’t played as much (in college) as I would’ve wanted to but that’s on me. It’s a mental and physical challenge and you don’t realize how much work goes into it off the course.”
Before that can happen, Rowe said his focus is on helping the Panthers be as good as they can be in the spring, with goals of winning a conference title, something he said is “not out of reach by any means.” After that, it’s about enjoying the ride playing Division I golf.
IOWA CITY | Nate Stanley measures his words and his actions carefully, finding his first five games as Iowa's starting quarterback to be filled with learning experiences.
From the highs of rallying the Hawkeyes to an overtime win at Iowa State to the challenges presented by the defenses of Penn State and Michigan State in his first two Big Ten games, Stanley has attempted to take it all in, break it down and grow from what has transpired.
Like many of his teammates, the 6-foot-5 sophomore strives for consistency.
“I try to keep things positive, no matter what situation we are in," Stanley said. “I'll tell guys in the huddle, ‘hey, we've been here before, we can do this' and do what I can to keep everybody motivated."
That kept Stanley going and Iowa in the game last weekend against the Spartans.
Michigan State had shut the Hawkeye ground game down, but persistence and belief kept the Hawkeye quarterback going in a 17-10 game.
“There's always a chance. It only takes one play to turn a game around," Stanley said. “We saw that at Iowa State. So, we keep working, keep it positive and keep doing what we can so that good things can happen."
As coach Kirk Ferentz promised during the preseason, the Hawkeyes have dealt with “a few bumps in the road" on their way to the 3-2 record they bring into Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Illinois at Kinnick Stadium
It goes with the territory with a first-year starter under center.
Ferentz recalled Tuesday the fourth quarter of a game at Pittsburgh in 2014 when then-sophomore C.J. Beathard was forced into action after Jake Rudock suffered an injury.
Beathard burnt two of the three timeouts Iowa had for the half on two consecutive plays, the first on fourth-and-one call from the Pittsburgh 5-yard line and after a four-yard gain by Mark Weisman, the second before a first-and-goal play.
Iowa scored two snaps later and held on for a 24-20 win at Heinz Field, but the use of those timeouts on the goal line stick with Ferentz to this day.
“My flashback moment to C.J. was burning two timeouts on the goal line at Pittsburgh," Ferentz said.
“Those things happen with young quarterbacks. It was in a goal-line situation, there are only so many things that can happen on the goal line, but we still burned two timeouts. I think it’s kind of emblematic, if you will, or symbolic of what happens with young quarterbacks sometimes."
Stanley hasn't provided the Iowa coach with a Kodak moment like that just yet, but has impressed Ferentz with his demeanor.
“I think Nate has done a pretty good job overall with that stuff," Ferentz said. “Handling things, feeling things, and that should improve with each week, too."
The expectations will grow as well.
Stanley has the ability to change the Iowa play call at the line of scrimmage based on his read of the opposing defense and he has the ability to deliver dummy calls as well to keep those defenses off balance.
He said the number varies from week to week in the game plan and Ferentz said compared to this week's game in the friendlier confines of Kinnick Stadium, Stanley had fewer audible options available to use last week because of crowd noise at Michigan State.
That will change as he gains experience.
“You can't play with handcuffs on totally, but we're probably not asking him to do as much as we will later in the season or certainly next year moving down the road, that type of thing," Ferentz said.
Stanley understands that as well.
He said things within the Iowa offense have been simplified to a degree this season compared to the expectations placed on Beathard a year ago when he was in his first season at Iowa.
“There are things that are designed to help me out a little bit," Stanley said. “There is enough there for us to make it work as long as we execute the way I know we can. I have confidence in everybody in the huddle and we believe we can make the offense work."
Tight end T.J. Hockenson said Stanley has shown the ability to keep things calm in the huddle even when things get a bit chaotic on the field.
“He does a good job of keeping things real, not adding any pressure," Hockenson said. “He's been a good and strong leader for us, very consistent."
That describes his overall performance as well.
Stanley currently ranks second in the Big Ten with 12 touchdown passes for the season and enters Saturday's game against Illinois having attempted 133 passes without an interception since having his third attempt of the season picked off in Iowa’s season opener against Wyoming.
Overall, he has completed 80-of-136 passes for 1,043 yards, a 58.8 percent completion rate.
The numbers are solid for a first-year starter, but Ferentz's faith in Iowa's starting quarterback goes to what he sees on a daily basis.
“I think all of us are really impressed and pleased with what he’s done so far," Ferentz said. “He's working hard, he’s conscientious. He's made some errors that are going to come with inexperience, so there's no reason to get worried about him right now. It's just a matter of what we can do to clean a few things up."
CEDAR FALLS | All of their young lives, A.J. and Trevor Allen shared a basement room in Waukee where the battles were legendary.
The two, separated by a year, say the action was just far enough away that mom, Kristina Storm, ... "she couldn't hear me scream for help," laughed Trevor, the younger of the two brothers.
But as much as the basement battles resolved the issues of that time, the Allen brothers could not fathom being apart when it came to college where Trevor, Northern Iowa's starting running back, and A.J., a starting safety/linebacker, are carrying on the legacy of a last name quite familiar to Panther faithful.
The two are the sons of Andre Allen, the two-time Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year and two-time all-American linebacker, for UNI from 1991-1994.
"He always had that in his back pocket," A.J. said of UNI. "He would come and ask are you still thinking about UNI?
"But the bottom line was he left it up to us. He wanted us to follow our dreams and do what we wanted to do and not what somebody told us to do," added A.J.
A.J. arrived at UNI in 2014, and a year later, Trevor, who rushed for more than 3,600 yards at Waukee, was torn on whether to follow A.J. to UNI or go to North Dakota State, his other top choice.
The final decision came down to basement battles.
"It was here or NDSU and it came down to A.J.," Trevor said. "I don't think I could've been away from him that long. The year he was away at college and I was still at home, it was weird. That solidified it that I was coming here."
The two don't share a room any more, but live in houses next door in Cedar Falls. The basement battles continue on the practice field, however.
"There is a lot of smack talk going back and forth," Trevor laughed.
Both Allen brothers have been making their mark in the Panthers' lineup for the past two seasons, and this year both are starters.
A.J. saw action in 22 games as freshman and sophomore as a safety, while Trevor earned a spot on the MVFC all-Newcomer team last year as a hybrid running back/wide receiver.
How each gravitated to offense or defense is another interesting note to their story.
"I was always a little bigger so I just went to defense," said A.J., who has played both safety spots and outside linebacker for the Panthers in their first four games this season. "I was the first kid. When we were younger I think Trevor played some corner, but we always handed him the ball because that was more his skill set than mine.
"But don't get me wrong, I can catch him if I need, too."
Both Allen's love the fact they are carrying on the legacy their father, a 2013 UNI Hall of Fame Inductee, built during his playing career.
"People know who are dad was," A.J. said. "It is great, amazing. He built the foundation for the Allen name, and we are living up to it and even trying to go past it. It has been a great challenge, and we are looking forward to keeping it moving."
"I love carrying on the Allen legacy," Trevor added. "We don't get compared to him that much, but we like to think we are like him because on the field we want to take care of business, and somebody not to be messed with because people did not mess with him on the football field."
There is one person who see similarities in the Allen brothers and their father, current UNI head coach Mark Farley who was Andre's position coach for the Panthers.
"I see the competiveness from their dad in them because Andre was always competitive on the football field," Farley said. "I see that that in both of them with how they play.
"It is neat to see those guys here knowing what their dad was to our football program and both are now starters. I'm sure he is very pleased. Their mom, too, she is a big factor in all of this."
There is also one story left to the Allen tale that both A.J. and Trevor want to discover an answer to it.
During Andre's time at UNI, and one of Farley's favorite stories to tell the Allen brothers, is in a time where almost all players wore either black or white cleats, Andre had a pair of purple suede cleats that then UNI head coach Terry Allen allowed him to wear in games.
"I think I saw them once or twice when I was a kid," Trevor smiled.
"He probably has them in the archives at home somewhere," A.J. laughed. "I'm going to have to go home and take them. I'm going to have to ask if he has them still."