The Big Ten Conference is known to be an elite conference in many NCAA sports.
But for volleyball, the Big Ten is a whole new level of talent. There are six teams currently ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 25 poll, and three other teams are knocking on the door to join that group.
The Big Ten has the number one, two, five, 13, 14 and 20 team in the nation, while IU is unranked. That’s why IU has started the conference season 0-2, with two three-set losses to Illinois and Maryland, two of the three teams receiving votes for the top 25.
Last year, the Hoosiers went 6-14 in conference play for the third-straight season. IU hasn’t had more than six wins in conference play since 2010.
The road this year, like in years past, isn’t going to get easier. But this is one of the more talented teams IU has had in the last couple of years. The Hoosiers are young and deep.
IU's roster contains 11 underclassmen out of 16 total players, with only one senior on the team.
“We love volleyball and we have a lot of passion for it,” sophomore setter Victoria Brisack said. “We are motivated and in practice we get better every single day, which I don’t think all teams can say.”
The team motto this year is “release the venom,” based on the ideology of baby snakes and their lack of maturity. It is believed that when a baby snake strikes, it can’t control how much venom it releases onto its prey. Therefore due to IU’s youth, the team just wants to go out there and wreak havoc on its opponents.
“We are simplifying things, that’s the training method we’ve found to work for a young team,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “The more we simplify things, the way better they process it and maintain it.”
Like most things, there are positives and negatives about having a young team.
“They’ve never played any of these teams before, so they don’t know how good any of them are,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “I’d rather have them just look at it as another opponent and step on the court and release that venom and just go for it.”
That’s a good mentality to have, especially when going up against the powerhouse teams that the Big Ten has to offer.
Key matchups to look forward to for the Hoosiers are Sept. 27 and 30, when they play No. 20 Purdue, first in West Lafayette, Indiana, and then in Bloomington. Oct. 21, IU will play No. 2 Penn State at home, and Nov. 11 the Hoosiers will take on the No. 1 team in the country, Minnesota, at home.
The youth and depth of the Hoosiers will look to take the Big Ten Conference by storm this year and obtain a winning conference record, something the team hasn’t done since 1999.
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