It would be hard to find a sports team with such a drastically different look from one year to the next as the IU volleyball team. The roster composition has flipped to usher in a year of youth for the Hoosiers.
After two seasons with a combined three freshmen, the Hoosiers boast six on this year’s team: outside hitters Ally Badowski and Kendall Beerman, setter Victoria Brisack, middle blockers Hayden Huybers and Deyshia Lofton, and defensive specialist Meaghan Koors.
“In the past we haven’t had as big of a freshman group as we do this year, so it is awesome having them come in and step up right away,” senior outside hitter Allison Hammond said. “Nothing ever skipped a beat or anything. Everyone goes through a learning curve even as you get older, but overall I think they are ready. The whole team is ready.”
Sophomore defensive specialist Samantha Fogg lauds the Hoosiers’ freshmen for their work ethic and admits that the team would not have the record they have without them.
IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said she has been very pleased with the performances of her six freshmen en route to the Hoosiers’ 12-3 start to the season.
“You don’t often get a lot of freshmen that come in and you feel like you can put them on the floor and that they can help you win,” Dunbar-Kruzan said.
The freshmen were leading the field of Big Ten freshmen in multiple categories as of Sept. 26. Huybers sits atop the conference’s freshmen in hitting percentage, and is second in aces, fifth in blocks and seventh in kills.
Beerman ranks third in hitting percentage and fifth in kills. Her 126 kills are second on the Hoosiers to only senior Allison Hammond. Finally, Lofton leads the team in blocks per set with 1.00/set as of Sept. 26.
This year’s roster is bottom-heavy with the six freshmen and top-heavy with five seniors but lacks depth among sophomores and juniors.
Dunbar-Kruzan is proud of her seniors for making themselves available to the freshmen and helping the newcomers adjust to the new level of competition.
“The seniors have been so welcoming to this freshmen class, and they realize how much value that they can help us with this year,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “Sometimes they forget what it was like to be freshmen, so they are starting to understand how to treat them and how to give them just enough information. The freshmen have earned a lot of respect from the upperclassmen, and that’s a really good thing.”
Senior middle blocker Jazzmine McDonald, who has the 30th-best hitting percentage in the entire NCAA, echoes this sentiment and has reaped the benefits of re-exploring skills that she was taught years ago.
Dunbar-Kruzan said she believes there is no difference in receptiveness to coaching between freshmen and seniors but acknowledged different approaches must be taken with each group.
The 10th-year coach takes more of a relaxed approach with her seniors, who she trusts to coach themselves and fix things.
Contrarily, she has to limit herself to only giving the freshmen one or two lessons at a time so that they don’t get overwhelmed and can compete without overthinking things.
McDonald said it was not difficult to adjust from an older team to a younger team, but it was new because this year’s seniors have never really had to guide freshmen in the past, as there has been a lack of young players recently.
“Our freshmen are very on top of things and are a very good group,” McDonald said. “It’s been great because reinforcing things to my two young middles reminds me of everything I need to know. They jumped right on board. They soak everything up like a sponge, so we really enjoy having them.”
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Dunbar-Kruzan was inducted into the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame on July 13.
The seven-time MLB all-star will serve as the Hoosiers’ director of player development.
An official starting time will be released at a later date.