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Thursday, May 30
The Indiana Daily Student

sports volleyball

Pair of ranked rivals invade University Gym as IU opens conference schedule

Ball State junior Julia Breivogel spikes on IU's Taylor Wittmer, No. 9, and Lexie Woodson during the TIS Bookstore Invitational on Sept. 19 at University Gym. IU swept Ball State 3-0.

It’s Big Ten time, and the volleyball team is welcoming its competition with open arms.

This weekend marks the beginning of the Big Ten Conference matches against big-time rivals Illinois and Purdue on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Individual Hoosiers have made several accomplishments as they prepare for the challenge headed their way.

Senior captain Juli Pierce’s accomplishment has been the most notable. Pierce became IU’s all-time digs leader last weekend, recording 1,332 career digs, which helped the Hoosiers sweep Ball State last Friday.

“I think it’s very exciting,” she said, “but obviously it could’ve never been accomplished without my teammates and coaches helping me every step of the way.”

The Big Ten Conference is the toughest volleyball conference in the nation, with teams like No. 1 Penn State, but beyond the Nittany Lions, the conference features No. 12 Minnesota, No. 19 Purdue and No. 20 Illinois.

Now that the team will be stepping into Big Ten gyms, practices seem to have a different aura. Coaches are a little more intense, players are working a little harder, and everyone is more attentive.

“It’s a whole new focus on the court and at practice,” said freshman setter Mary Chaudoin. “This is for real now, and this is what we’ve been practicing for. Now it’s time to execute what we’ve been practicing.”

IU coach Sherry Dunbar is ready to embark on the journey the Big Ten offers.

“I think the pre-season games prepared us, and we’ve really learned about scouting and have done a lot of film work of (Illinois),” Dunbar said. “They’ve also done scouting reports on their own and kind of mimicked U of I at practice. They’re mentally and physically ready.”

The team is proud and honored to be a member of such a competitive conference.

“I feel great being a part of Big Ten volleyball and a Big Ten school,” sophomore Ashley Benson said. “I think it’s the best thing. In volleyball, it’s the toughest conference, and I think all the teams bring their “A” game each game. I like it a lot.”

The Hoosiers square off against Illinois at 7 p.m. Friday and then take on Purdue at 7 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be played at the University Gym.

“I expect it to be really intense, loud and a lot of balls bouncing hard,” Chaudoin said. “I expect to see top-level volleyball and, of course, to win.”

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