IU and Northwestern have both struggled in the Big Ten the past two seasons, but the Hoosiers will look to buck that trend when they start Big Ten play against the Wildcats Wednesday.
IU enters the match-up 11-2, and will continue to follow its mantra of treating every opponent the same, Big Ten or not, when Northwestern comes to town.
“We don’t have to adjust our plays at all,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We are who we are. We have to believe in who we are and you don’t change a lot as you go into Big Ten play.”
Senior setter and co-captain Megan Tallman said she believes her team’s focus must remain on their game plan and that they shouldn’t implode if they make any mistakes against a Northwestern squad that enters the contest 7-5.
“Volleyball is a game of imperfections,” Tallman said. “Imperfections are going to happen and we are going to be out of system and we are going to miss serves, but the more that we can be on our specific game plan, the better off we will be.”
Senior outside hitter Allison Hammond reiterated the importance moving forward with the same mindset they have had thus far. In order to continue having success, the team needs to stick to their identity of playing with speed.
Now that the team has reached the goal of double digit wins they set for themselves for the non-conference schedule, Hammond said the focus is on maintaining those high standards as they face the nation’s top teams.
“We came here because we want the challenge,” Hammond said. “We just have to be eager to learn every day in practice and continue to get better and not settle with our preseason record.”
The Big Ten opener against Northwestern will be IU’s most feeble opponent compared to what the upcoming schedule has in store. IU will face four consecutive top-10 teams after Northwestern, and should look to take advantage of a Wildcat team that struggled to a 1-3 road record against non-conference opponents.
Dunbar-Kruzan told her team they knew what they signed up for when they chose to play in the Big Ten and that they can’t be nervous when facing top tier opponents.
“We have learned that if we can play with speed all the time that we can hit .400 against a 9-1 team in Cleveland State, who went to the NCAA Tournament last year,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We were very critical of the way we played, and we played well, but there are things that we can get a lot better at.”
During the game against Cleveland State, senior middle blocker Jazzmine McDonald moved up the rankings to first in the Big Ten and eighth in the entire NCAA in individual hitting percentage at .427.
A common mentality for IU’s players is that team goals are more important than individual accomplishments.
This resonates with Hammond, who also reached a career milestone this weekend as she surpassed 500 career kills. She said she didn’t realize she had passed the milestone until after the game.
“My ultimate goal is to get into the NCAA Tournament,” Hammond said. “I just want to win.”