The Hoosiers will begin their 2016 volleyball season Friday facing low expectations from the Big Ten’s 14 head coaches. The conference’s annual preseason poll, voted on by the head coaches, slates IU 13th with only Rutgers below them.
Nebraska, the 2015 NCAA champion, sits atop the rankings followed by NCAA semifinalist and defending conference champion Minnesota in second and Wisconsin in third. The Cornhuskers were unanimously selected for the top spot by the coaches and boast three players on the Preseason All-Big Ten team. IU has zero.
The lack of confidence in the Hoosiers possibly stems from last season’s 6-14 conference record, good for a 10th place tie with Northwestern. IU started the season well, but faltered as the season drew to a close and finished 16-16.
The Hoosiers will need players to step up and replace the production lost by the graduations of Amelia Anderson and Awele Nwaeze, the team’s top two point leaders in 2015. Outside Hitter Allison Hammond, who finished third in points and second in kills last year, returns for her senior year.
IU starts the 2016 campaign with three matches in Bloomington against Northern Kentucky, Evansville and Marshall for the Indiana Invitational. The Hoosiers finished 8-5 at home last season.