Saturday evening may be IU volleyball’s best chance to snap its nine-match losing streak, dating back to 2010, against No. 22 Ohio State, 15-10, 5-8 in conference.
Coming off three competitive matches, including a win, against three top-15 teams, the Hoosiers, 15-11, 4-9 in conference, are playing with a great deal of confidence. That, paired with Ohio State’s struggles on the road, where the Buckeyes have a 3-7 record compared to 6-3 at home, should make for a well-fought contest.
“We put ourselves into a good position for this match, and we have to continue to get better and not back away,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “Our middles are doing some unbelievable work right now, but our rights and lefts are really going to have to step up to the challenge.”
Dunbar-Kruzan will be watching out for senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe, who just broke the all-time career blocks record at Ohio State. She said that Sandbothe reminds the Hoosier head coach of former IU player and current assistant coach Ashley Benson.
Sandbothe was a 2015 American Volleyball Collegiate Association first-team All-American, and she ranks 12th in the Big Ten in blocks this season with 98 total and a 1.10-blocks-per-set average.
“Sandbothe is their go-to, and she is their emotion,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “They are a very aggressive serving team, a good blocking team and a good defensive team. They are ranked No. 22 for a reason, but we have to have confidence playing on our home court.”
Senior outside hitter Allison Hammond said she has noticed her teammates have made a conscious effort to be more aggressive as of late.
She said the Hoosiers changed the way that they mentally prepare for matches and it has helped their progression.
“I’m so proud of this team so far for the growth that we’ve had, even in the later part of this season,” Hammond said. “We are going to implement that and keep the standard of play that we have found the past few games. If we are super aggressive and we play together then we’ll pull it off.”
The outside hitter said IU must exploit Ohio State’s lackluster road record and use it to IU’s advantage, like it did in its upset last weekend against then-No. 13 Michigan.
Hammond has a positive outlook as IU plays its last seven matches of the regular season, which could be the last of her college career if the Hoosiers fail to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
“Confidence comes with playing better and is an elephant-in-the-room type of thing,” Hammond said. “The way we get hyped up for practice now is the same as getting hyped up for a game so it’s nice to see that.”
IU will honor senior co-captains Megan Tallman, setter, and Taylor Lebo, libero, before Saturday’s match, as they both broke school records in the past week. Tallman broke the IU record for career assists in the rally scoring era, and Lebo now owns the all-time record for career aces in the rally scoring era.
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