Of the 16 Big Ten games the Hoosiers have played this season, they’ve only won five times.
That doesn’t come as a surprise when IU averages 34 errors per game, records 47 fewer blocks than its opponents and maintains a 0.250 deficit in attack percentage.
The No. 91 Hoosiers know they won’t be earning a seed in this season’s NCAA tournament, but IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said the team still has plenty to play for as it competes against No. 18 Illinois.
“I think they’re so focused on how fun it would be to find a couple of wins from the top ten teams in the country,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “That would be awesome to finish our season like that and go into the off-season with.”
The Illini swept the last match against the Hoosiers, 3-0. Dunbar-Kruzan said if this team doesn’t continue to have a winning expectation, then they shouldn’t even step on the bus.
“Illinois has a ‘why’ for when they’re playing,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We’re fighting for a legacy of going into the offseason on a really positive note trying to improve as long as we possibly can.”
In comparison to the Hoosiers, the Illini don’t involve their middle blockers during matches as much, Dunbar-Kruzan said. When the Illini struggle during matches, they make up for losses in kills with their outside hitters.
“They really rely on their outside hitters, like Jocelynn Birks,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “When they get into tough situations they set her the ball a lot. If we can keep in system and run a little different offense as far as getting different people involved, I think we’ll be in better shape.”
She said IU usually struggles with teams such as Illinois that have much bigger blocks in comparison. IU works around that with serving and their pin attack, which lacked in their most recent match against Nebraska.
Where IU lacks in pin attack performance, it makes up for it in its middle blockers, such as freshman Elizabeth Asdell, who led the team with 12 kills and had a .526 hitting percentage.
“I’m glad we’re getting Liz more and more involved in the offense because she spreads things out and gives us a balance,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We want to set our middles more than we did when we were at Nebraska.”
Getting a win for the Hoosiers is going to take a lot more than just relying on their middle blockers. Dunbar-Kruzan said they’ll need to look for more kills with their outside hitters and make fewer errors if they want to cinch a win.
During its last game against Nebraska, IU managed to give away 20 points on errors alone. That’s something IU cannot afford to do with sets that only take 25 points for a win.
With the odds stacked against them, the Hoosiers are staying on their “go for it” mentality, as they want to bring home a win for their last away game this season.
“I want to go in with positive thinking that I can do this, and we can do this,” Asdell said. “They’re nothing but Illinois.”