Hoosier volleyball displayed remarkable consistency once again Wednesday night as it faced its first Big Ten opponent of the season in Northwestern.
To compound a recurring issue, the Hoosiers dug themselves into an early hole in the majority of the sets tonight, yet they still came out with a four-set victory over the Wildcats.
IU (12-2, 1-0) was able to gain separation toward the end of the first two sets, winning by scores of 25-16 and 25-19, respectively.
“It’s a bummer because we talked about jumping on them right at the beginning, and we didn’t do that,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We talked about imposing our speed and our aggressiveness, and we were imposed upon. It’s something we need to work on.”
Freshman Kendall Beerman touched the court during set two for the first time in two matches and quickly made her presence felt.
The outside hitter recorded back-to-back kills upon entering and played well enough to earn the start in the third set. She finished with eight kills and two digs.
“The match was a must-win for confidence because we know what is ahead of us,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “Northwestern got a lot better as the match went along, but we needed to find a way to end it and we did, so I’m proud of them.”
In unlikely fashion, senior setter Megan Tallman led the Hoosiers in kills with seven heading into the third set. The co-captain contributed on a multitude of fronts tonight and finished with 46 assists, a .467 hitting percentage, eight kills, eight digs and three service aces.
Tallman’s fellow co-captain, senior libero Taylor Lebo, led both teams with 17 digs. Northwestern’s leader in the category, senior outside hitter Rafae Strobos, notched just six digs.
However, freshman Hayden Huybers shined brighter than the rest in her Big Ten debut. The middle blocker tallied 10 kills and a flawless 1.000 hitting percentage to go along with her three service aces.
“We came out aggressive in all aspects,” Huybers said. “It was critical to win because our goal is to go to the NCAA Tournament, so every Big Ten game is very critical.”
The third set was a nail biter as the lead kept switching sides down the line. Northwestern came out on top 27-25 in their only set win of the night.
Contrarily, the fourth set was a completely different story as the Hoosiers never trailed from start to finish. The last tie stood at 11-11 before IU moved into its second gear and broke the game open.
The Hoosiers would close out with match with a 25-20 win in a set that hardly seemed that close.
“It makes me feel good as a coach that they are able to stay mature and calm in a stressful situation,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “There really is no easy Big Ten win.”
With a very difficult slate of Big Ten games approaching, Huybers said the team collectively breathed a sigh of relief to be in the win column as the season gets underway.
IU faces instate and conference rival No. 10 Purdue Saturday in West Lafayette.