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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports volleyball

Hoosiers begin season Friday

IU volleyball coach Sherry Dunbar sees something different about her team from past years heading into the 2009 season.

For Dunbar, that difference is a good thing, as the Hoosiers (17-15, 9-11) head to Houston to open their campaign Friday in the Flo Hyman Tournament.

“We have a totally different team this year,” Dunbar said. “We’ve changed more than half our roster. I think we have really stepped up talent-wise.”

Despite undergoing drastic overhaul from last year, Dunbar expects to have a strong squad that will contend for a NCAA tournament berth, which would be its first since 2002.

The Hoosiers’ first match of the season takes place at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Southeastern Louisiana.

Dunbar expects this weekend’s tournament to be a springboard for her team in terms of starting the season on a good note and getting ready for its tough conference slate.

“We’ve been playing against each other in practice, and first of all we’re really excited to play someone else,” Dunbar said. “It’s very different in match situations.”

Among the things Dunbar hopes to see this weekend and the rest of the season is the continued success and leadership of junior middle blocker Ashley Benson. 

Benson set IU records as a sophomore with 167 blocks and 151 block assists.

“She’s stronger than last year and she’s more independent,” Dunbar said. “She won’t need to be coached as much. She can be All-Big Ten again, she has All-American potential, and she has the potential to be the best to have ever played at IU.”

Along with Benson and the other returning members are eight newcomers. They include seven members of a top-25 recruiting class and former women’s basketball player Whitney Thomas.

Benson said she anticipates seeing what she and her teammates can do in their first match Friday.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “This preseason we’ve started doing things a bit earlier than last year.”

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