Volleyball returns to Bloomington as the Hoosier Classic begins Friday. On the heels of two long-distance road trips the last two weekends, IU will play its final three matches before Big Ten conference play begins at home.
Fresh off its first loss, IU (9-1) will face Arkansas State on Friday and IU-Purdue University Indianapolis and Cleveland State on Saturday.
After a disappointing 6-5 start to the season, Arkansas State seeks to get back to its winning ways from just a season ago when it finished 28-2. IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan even acknowledged to her Twitter followers on Tuesday that her team must be prepared for a tough match.
“We have really worked on staying in a routine in practice this week,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We can’t change the routine based on where we are in the match, or the crowd or whatever is going on around us.”
Senior middle blocker Jazzmine McDonald attributes the team’s continued success to the confidence they have built up and not focusing on an individual opponent’s reputation but on winning regardless of the circumstances.
“We have a very focused and driven energy,” McDonald said. “The freshmen have been coming off the bench and doing big things. The upperclassmen and sophomores have been doing their jobs and playing very experienced. There is a new atmosphere and culture of winning this year.”
McDonald, who ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 12 in the entire NCAA in hitting percentage at .421, raves about the importance of winning this weekend in order to gain momentum for the upcoming matches against Big Ten opponents.
The senior said she believes she and her teammates need a boost of speed, momentum and confidence before their opening conference match against Northwestern on Wednesday.
“We are very motivated,” McDonald said. “We’ve got IUPUI, who we have lost to a few times in tough losses, and then Arkansas State and Cleveland State, who are just teams that are standing in the way of our 12-1 goal. That is pure motivation that we know what we’ve got to do, and we are ready to fight for those three wins.”
Sophomore defensive specialist Samantha Fogg said she has extreme faith the Hoosiers will come out of this tournament unscathed.
“We’ll do whatever it takes, and we know whoever goes in is going to play their hardest and we are going to come out 3-0,” Fogg said. “That’s our mindset right now. We’re getting extra work in in the gym and our preparation for this weekend has taken a lot of time. We have also had mental preparation as we have been visualizing what we are going to do on Friday and Saturday.”
Taking a page out of her head coach’s playbook, McDonald emphasized the importance of not taking any opposing team for granted.
The middle blocker said she is also looking for revenge against Cleveland State, who defeated IU last season.
“We’re not overlooking anyone,” McDonald said. “Every single team coming in this weekend is very good competition and has very good players all around. We aren’t expecting to win. We are expecting to come out and fight for those wins.”