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IU welcomes the top-ranked Nebraska on senior night



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Jazzmine McDonald, Megan Tallman, and Taylor Lebo are all smiles after #5 gets an ace that sends the Hoosiers ahead of the Gophers. Mariah Hammond Buy Photos

The No. 1 volleyball team in the country will be traveling to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers on Saturday night. IU welcomes the 23-1, 14-1 Nebraska Cornhuskers on senior night, and the Hoosiers will be in search of a defining win.

IU, 16-12 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten, enters on the heels of its Wednesday night loss against No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan remains extremely confident heading into her team’s matchup against top-ranked Nebraska.

“I expect to win,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “On any given night in this conference that can happen and I believe that any time you have an event like a senior night and a home-court advantage and you are going for a goal, you never know what is going to happen. That’ll be on our team to step up that high and risk enough, but you have to go in with that intention. Maybe the stars will align and we get a little burst.”

In the first meeting between the two teams, IU freshman setter Victoria Brisack got her first start in place of injured senior setter Megan Tallman, and Nebraska swept IU 25-23, 25-13 and 25-17.

Since Tallman’s return, Dunbar-Kruzan has implemented a lineup in which both setters play on the floor together, and the Hoosiers have seen success, including two upset victories against ranked opponents. IU will employ that 6-2 formation once again Saturday night.

“I think we’re in the right lineup right now, and we just have to play at a higher level,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “Nebraska is really good, so you have to have a mentality that you are just going to go for it. You need to go for big swings and big serves. Nothing to hold back when you play a team like that. They have won 11 straight, and there’s a reason for that, so you have to do something different than what other teams do.”

Nebraska’s lone loss of the season came at the hands of Ohio State, which IU defeated in four sets last week.

In order to replicate that success, Dunbar-Kruzan said it is imperative that middle blockers senior Jazzmine McDonald and freshman Deyshia Lofton continue their recent trend of aggressive and confident play.

As for confident play, senior libero and co-captain Taylor Lebo set a lofty goal for herself for this weekend’s match.

“I want to get the highest amount of digs that I’ve ever gotten, which would be close to 30,” Lebo said. “I just want our team to play hard and to obviously win. Upsetting the No. 1 team is like a dream come true. We’ve been playing really good ball at our place so I’m excited.”

Lebo said she believes the team must play and block like they did when they defeated then-No. 13 Michigan about two weeks ago.

The co-captain said the team’s performance in that match helped the overall morale and feel of the team. She said upset win brought the team’s competitive edge back to life.

“We have to play with heart, we have to play scrappy and we have to get our offense going again,” Lebo said. “If we get one or two people to hop onboard with Jazzmine, who has been playing great ball, then I think Nebraska is not really going to know what to do.”

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