It’s been the same story for the Hoosiers this season in conference play — a struggle.
The struggle continued Wednesday night when the Iowa Hawkeyes visited University Gym and defeated the Hoosiers 3-1.
This is the seventh-straight loss for the Hoosiers, all against Big Ten opponents.
The first set was close. IU led 22-20 but gave up three-straight points to go down 23-22. The teams exchanged points until it was tied at 24.
The Hoosiers had been in this position before, most recently against Northwestern, when the fourth set went into the 30s. It also happened against Illinois, when the second set was tied at 25.
The similarities between those three sets were not just that they were close, but that IU couldn’t close out any of them.
Iowa won the next two points to win the set 26-24 and go up 1-0 in the match.
IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said the unforced errors were what cost the team late in the first set.
“I think we gave them that set,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “I think for a team like ours, where you’re struggling to find those wins, and you’re up 22-20 and you lose that first set, I think the air kind of goes out of the balloon.”
The balloon was popped in the early stages of the second set for the Hoosiers as the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 13-4 lead.
IU tried to make a run at the end of the set when Iowa had 23 points, but at that point, no mistakes could be made and the deficit was too much to overcome as IU dropped the set 25-19.
The Hoosiers' defense came to life in the third set as IU held Iowa to a hitting percentage of .031 in the set. IU hit .219 and had 12 kills to win the set 25-17.
That momentum came to an abrupt halt as soon as the fourth set got underway.
It was the exact opposite of the third. This time the Hawkeyes hit .361 and the Hoosiers hit .075, which allowed Iowa to take the set 25-14, giving the Hawkeyes a 3-1 victory.
IU was without sophomore outside hitter Kendall Beerman, who leads the team in kills. The outside hitters for the Hoosiers all performed well, but Dunbar-Kruzan said the team really missed Beerman and her ability to terminate the ball.
Beerman’s absence did force the Hoosiers to go more to their middle blockers — sophomores Deyshia Lofton and Hayden Huybers. Lofton had 14 kills and Huybers had eight.
“We’ve just been working on our connections,” Lofton said. “We’ve been watching a lot of film and trying to see what the other teams have open and just being able to put the ball down.”
Dunbar-Kruzan said she was pleased with the performances of both Lofton and Huybers.
The first conference win is still out there for IU to earn, and the Hoosiers' next opportunity to get it will be at 8 p.m. Friday night against No. 11 Wisconsin in Madison.