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IU up for challenge at No. 17 Michigan


Deyshia Lofton spikes the ball over the net against Ohio State on Saturday night. IU defeated Ohio State 3-1. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

No. 17 Michigan, 20-6, 9-5, will almost certainly have some extra motivation Wednesday as it welcomes the IU volleyball team that upset the Wolverines on Oct. 29 to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The red-hot Hoosiers, 16-11 overall, 5-9 in the Big Ten, are in the midst of their best stretch of play this season as they face their fifth consecutive ranked opponent.

IU upset then-No. 22 Ohio State in its last match and knocked the Buckeyes out of the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 25. Ohio State had been ranked for 37 consecutive weeks.

IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said she believes Michigan, 20-6 overall, 9-5 in the Big Ten, will serve and pass better on its home court, so the Hoosiers must be ready to defend.

“We’re looking at a couple things we want to change, but besides that we just have to play at a high level,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We played well when they were here, and it wasn’t long ago so there wasn’t a long, extended time where either one of us are going to make major adjustments. We just have to keep bringing our confidence to the court and keep believing that we can beat them.”

Before the Hoosiers’ match against the Wolverines a week and a half ago, Dunbar-Kruzan warned her team about Michigan middle blocker Abby Cole.

IU was able to limit the senior and 2015 second-team All-American to just five kills on a .059 hitting percentage.

“The biggest key is serving,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “If we take them out of system then we are going to get the types of balls that we saw when we last played them.

If we don’t and they are in-system then they have an All-American middle and we will have to deal with that. We are going to have to watch for them to stay out-of-system, so we spent time practicing low, flat serves, which worked last time.”

Senior setter Megan Tallman said she is focused on proving IU’s recent victories against then-No. 13 Michigan and then-No. 22 Ohio State were not flukes.

The co-captain said the Hoosiers are looking forward to going into Ann Arbor and really competing. She said the Hoosiers must get the Wolverines on their heels and take advantage of it.

“I think a lot of the time when you come from being a not-so-winning team to knocking off some of these top teams, people see it as a fluke, and I want everyone to know that that’s not what it is,” Tallman said. “It’s tougher to play at their place, and they will be out for blood, but so will we. We have a tournament run to make, and everything we want to do right now requires winning. We have to win. It’s plain and simple. It doesn’t scare us anymore, and that’s a great thing.”

Tallman said the team’s new winning mentality will be at the forefront of this match because when facing a top-25 team you have to expect that they will bounce balls and score points.

The mentality is as much about poise as it is about performance. She said it’s not all about winning, but it’s about how you carry yourself and how you go point-for-point with a team and stay in these tough matches.

“We have been focusing on being this fiery, passionate team, which I love to see because that’s the team that I have always been on, whether it was high school or club,” Tallman said. “Undersized and full of heart.

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