IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan’s prophecy turned out to be correct.
She said her team would have to play well Friday night and build upon that performance going into Saturday’s match in order to be successful. That happened, and the Hoosiers earned their first win against a ranked opponent this season.
Although IU was unable to pull out the victory Friday against the No. 15 Michigan State Spartans, 19-5, 8-4, the Hoosiers turned it around the day after to knock off the No. 13 Michigan Wolverines in four sets.
The match Friday was much closer than the scoreboard showed during the Spartans’ 25-23, 25-16, 25-22 sweep.
“I thought we played well against Michigan State, especially in the first and third sets,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “They are a much more physical team than us, but we out-blocked them, and we served super aggressively against them. Finally we started to take some risky and aggressive swings.”
Senior setter Megan Tallman made her much-anticipated return from her broken finger and instantly provided a jolt off the bench by tallying a service ace as soon as she entered the match.
The co-captain would enter IU’s record books a few plays later when as she recorded her 3,501st career assist to become IU’s all-time leader in that category in the first set. With that assist, Tallman surpassed Laurie Gardner from 1999-2001.
“You watch her play, and she brings so much leadership and passion, and she’s just good,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “She really runs the offense well. She serves aggressively, so it gives us another server to get teams out of system.”
It was senior middle blocker Jazzmine McDonald, however, who stood out in IU’s four-set upset, 25-14, 21-25, 25-16, 25-23, against Michigan. IU moved to 10-5, 4-8, and Michigan drops to 18-6, 7-5.
McDonald, along with the rest of her teammates, played with a noticeable fury and increased integrity en route to achieving her first double-double in her entire volleyball career. Her stacked stat sheet included a career-high 15 kills on just 20 attempts and a .700 hitting percentage for the match with 10 blocks.
McDonald said the Hoosiers needed this win to accomplish their goal of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
“We all came out on fire, and every Big Ten team is good right now, so beating the No. 13 team in the country is inspiring, and it was fun to go out and just fight,” McDonald said. “We stuck to the game plan, and when you do that against good teams, that is when you find wins. We usually sneak the win against Michigan at home, so we had a little bit of an extra edge to go out and fight them.”
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of IU’s Saturday-night victory is its block totals. Dunbar-Kruzan focused on the team’s blocking scheme in practice this week as the Hoosiers entered the match ranking dead last in the Big Ten in blocks with an average of only 1.74 per set. The preparation clearly led to positive results, and IU broke out for 21 team blocks in the win.
Dunbar-Kruzan mentioned it would be key to limit Michigan’s 2015 second-team All-America senior Abby Cole, and that is just what the Hoosiers did. Cole was limited to just five kills and a .059 hitting percentage.
“What this match does is give us confidence,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We know we are a good team, but when you earn a win against a top-15 team, it will give you confidence moving forward.”
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