It’s win or learn for IU volleyball.
The Hoosiers' record reads 11 wins and five learning experiences.
As much as being on the receiving end of four straight losses might sting, IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said her team wants nothing more than to get better.
Mix that in with a full week of practice, which the team hasn’t had in about a month, and the Hoosiers are looking to go to Evanston, Illinois, and Champaign, Illinois, on a mission to pick up their first Big Ten Conference win.
IU will play Northwestern at 8 p.m. Friday. Like the Hoosiers, the Wildcats have an 11-5 record and 3-0 losses to both Illinois and Purdue. The only difference between the two is that Northwestern has a conference win, which IU desperately seeks.
“Northwestern is a really good team, and they look a lot like us right now,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “They’re very athletic, and they’re going to be tough to beat, but we have a good scouting report, and we are gunning for them.”
The following night, IU will get a rematch against the Illini at 8 p.m.
In the first match between Illinois and IU on Sept. 20, the Hoosiers lost the first set, 25-23, and weren’t able to recover. A similar scenario happened last Saturday against No. 18 Purdue, as a 25-23 first set loss led to less competitive sets afterwards.
Graduate student middle blocker Kristen Ostach said she thinks the team needs to stay focused and locked in to close out sets.
Dunbar-Kruzan said she thinks IU is a much different team now than the last time it played Illinois. She said she has noticed from film that teams that have served aggressively against Illinois have had success. That could play into IU’s favor because serving is one of the team's strong suits, she said.
“We’ve really been working on our serving and the aggressiveness that we are doing it,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “It worked really well against Purdue when we were really on it.”
In the Purdue series, the Hoosiers played a much better serving and passing game at home than they did on the road, leading to a closer score in the home loss to the Boilermakers.
The Hoosiers are obviously more comfortable and familiar with the court inside University Gym, but this weekend's matches are both on the road.
IU is allowed a 90-minute practice before each match, and Dunbar-Kruzan wants her team to get a good feel on the courts for those two parts of its game before the opening serve.
“Obviously, we want to get a win because that’s why you step on the floor,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “But we need to keep playing better. If we can continue to get better every day, hopefully the outcome is wins, but we have to play at a high level for longer periods of time."
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