According to IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan and her team, IU is 0-0.
In reality, the Hoosiers are 0-8 in conference play, which has them on an eight-game losing streak. They have won just four of the 28 sets played against Big Ten teams and have an overall record of 11-9. However, all that has far left the team’s memory.
The Hoosiers have shown improved play since Sept. 20.
Most recently, IU played an aggressive match in Madison, Wisconsin, versus the No. 11 Badgers. Despite losing the match 3-0, Dunbar-Kruzan was pleased with the team's performance.
“I was proud that we went on the road against one of the top teams in the country and played up to that level,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “Our execution was really good. We passed really well, and I thought we were in control in different parts of that match.”
Despite the struggle IU has faced in conference play, there is one team that has struggled more, and IU will play it at 6 p.m. Friday night at home — Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are 0-8 in conference play as well but are 5-15 overall. Rutgers has been swept in seven out of its eight conference matches, winning just one of the 25 sets played.
Something Dunbar-Kruzan has noticed from the Scarlet Knights is that they go on a lot of runs. Rutgers took a set against Michigan and obtained a .333 hitting percentage in the first set against No. 10 Michigan State.
On the flip side, the Scarlet Knights also give up on a lot of runs; something IU knows it needs to capitalize on.
“We are working on our serve-pass game,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “In receive, I think we can serve them more aggressive and get them out-of-system, but we also have to go on runs on our side of the net.”
To simulate this at practice, the team has been doing a “progressive scoring game," where when someone scores, they’ll get one point. The next point is worth two, four and then eight. Dunbar-Kruzan said they did this so the players get a mentality that they have to stop those runs by going for a first-ball kill or a transition kill to halt the run.
IU has defeated Rutgers for four-straight years and look to use this match to get its first conference win.
This isn’t the only match the Hoosiers will compete in this weekend, however.
Saturday night, the No. 1-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions will come to Bloomington. The match will be played at 7 p.m. at the University Gym.
Penn State is 17-1 overall, 6-1 in the conference and 4-0 on the road. The last time the Hoosiers beat Penn State was in 2010 when they came to Bloomington ranked fourth.
That victory in 2010 came as part of IU's last NCAA tournament season.
Before the Hoosiers topped the No. 4 Nittany Lions, they had their early Big Ten struggles like this year, starting off 0-4. Following the win against Penn State, IU won seven more conference games.
With 12 games remaining this year, the team knows this weekend is a big opportunity to get themselves back into the mix.
“I think two wins this weekend would just put us right back in there,” junior right side hitter Elizabeth Asdell said. “We’ve been talking about how many wins we need, and if we can get them against some of these ranked teams and take down their RPI, it will really help us.”
Asdell also mentioned that the difference between IU and the ranked teams it plays are that the other teams have that winning mentality and ability to close things out. She said the team is building on that and are looking forward to more opportunities to get that mentality and killer instinct.
After the loss to Wisconsin, Asdell said the team is more motivated with how well they played. If the Hoosiers can follow history and beat Rutgers for the fifth-straight season, Saturday could very well echo the scenario of seven years ago.
“There’s a lot of season left,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “Our team is resilient, and their attitudes are good. A lot of teams that go 0-8 would start to go down, but that’s not us. We look at today and how we can get better, and I think there’s a lot of positive energy around our program right now."
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