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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports volleyball

After mixed 2009, IU volleyball looks toward the future


Upon the close of the 2009 season, the IU volleyball team believes a bright future is on the horizon.

“We played some really competitive volleyball against some of the best teams in the nation,” IU coach Sherry Dunbar said.

Despite failing to reach their goal of making the NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers (17-17, 6-14) accomplished a multitude of feats in Dunbar’s third year as head coach.

Junior middle blocker Ashley Benson garnered All-Big Ten honors for the second consecutive year, a unanimous selection, while posting an IU-best .361 hitting percentage.

Similarly, freshman outside hitter Jordan Haverly was unanimously named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team while posting a record 446 kills to break the school single-season freshman record.

Haverly earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Week distinction three times during her initial campaign as a Hoosier.

“It’s been so much fun,” Haverly said of her freshman season. “I’ve had a great experience so far, and I’m just really excited for where the program is going and to be with my teammates and to see what next season brings. It was just a really good way to start off my career and a really great group of people to do it with.”

Sophomore libero Caitlin Cox dug 488 hits to set a new single-season mark, only a year after she broke the same record specifically for freshmen.

“It’s pretty cool to break both of those in consecutive years,” Cox said. “So now this gives me something to shoot for next year, to break my record this year.”

In addition, Cox, fellow sophomores Mary Chaudoin and Jessica Weeg, graduate student and right-side hitter Whitney Thomas and junior middle blocker/right-side hitter Taylor Wittmer all earned Academic All-Big Ten honors. 

The Hoosiers began the season with  excitement and promise.

Benson was coming off a record-setting sophomore campaign, Cox was a returning Big Ten All-Freshman, and the team added former basketball player Whitney Thomas and Prep Volleyball’s No. 22-ranked recruiting class.

IU appeared to be making headway toward an NCAA berth by starting 11-3 in non-conference play.

The Hoosiers swept two tournaments, the season-opening Flo Hyman Invitational in Houston and the Hampton Inn Invitational in Athens, Ohio. 

The latter included two thrilling five-set IU victories against host Ohio and Missouri State. Cox earned MVP honors.

However, the Big Ten season proved to be a different animal for the Hoosiers and their freshman-heavy squad.

IU won two of its first three conference contests, including a dramatic five-set win against in-state rival Purdue in West Lafayette on Sept. 30.

However, the Hoosiers’ only victory between then and mid-November came Oct. 16 in Assembly Hall as part of Hoosier Hysteria.

During that stretch, the fifth set became somewhat of an Achilles heel for the team.
IU fell short in four five-set matches, twice to Northwestern, as well as Wisconsin and No. 8 Illinois.

Purdue got its revenge in Bloomington as well, downing IU in four sets in University Gym on Nov. 4.

The Hoosiers finally snapped their seven-match skid at Michigan State on Nov. 13 before dropping another five-setter to No. 16 Michigan the next night.

Honoring senior players Thomas and Kelsey Hall on Nov. 20, IU fell to Ohio State in four sets. 

The following night, the Hoosiers nearly claimed a set from two-time defending national champion Penn State for the first time since 2001 twice before losing in straight sets.

Maintaining the desire to keep the program moving in the right direction, the team ended its season strong.

The five-set battles in which the young squad struggled mightily throughout the season took a turn for the better against Wisconsin on Nov. 27.

IU surged from a 12-10 deficit in the fifth set and won five straight points to defeat the Badgers and exorcise its five-set demons.

Going out in dominant fashion the following night, the Hoosiers swept Iowa again, and Benson and Cox cemented their respective records.

Dunbar said she was encouraged by the way her team ended the season.

“This will give us some great motivation for the spring, to work really hard, to get stronger as a team, to get mentally tougher, to find a way to win,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of fun things coming up with a great spring and a foreign trip in May. I think this team gets along really well and I think they’re really motivated to keep this program moving forward.”

As for the players, they said the potential for success has grown thanks to the work they’ve put in this season.

“We still have that little bit to push to start beating Michigan consistently, and Illinois and Minnesota and teams like that, to get up in the top five of the Big Ten,” Cox said. “There’s a future now.”

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