For the first time this season, the Hoosiers won a set in conference play, and they didn’t stop there.
IU won two of the first three sets during Friday night's match against Northwestern at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois, the temporary home of Northwestern volleyball while Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes renovations.
However, the end result was still the same for IU.
The Hoosiers remained winless in conference play with a five-set loss to the Wildcats.
In the first set, IU trailed 21-14 and went on a 6-1 run to make it 22-20. The Wildcats closed out the set 25-21, but IU took the momentum from the end of the set and carried it into the second set.
The second set was tight the whole way. The biggest lead came when Northwestern was up 13-10.
With the score tied at 22, IU sophomore setter Victoria Brisack took the set into her own hands. After the Wildcats expected Brisack to set it to one of her outside hitters as usual, she dumped it over the net to give IU a 23-22 lead.
Brisack followed that with a service ace to go up 24-22, and although she didn’t score the set point, she assisted junior right side hitter Elizabeth Asdell for the kill to win IU's first set in conference play, 25-22.
The Hoosiers got off to one of their better starts in the third set, leading 10-6. As the set went on, the score became closer, but with a 19-18 lead, IU went on a 6-2 run to win the set, 25-20, and take a 2-1 lead.
Then, the fourth set happened. It wasn't an ordinary set. There were nine lead changes and 16 ties before Northwestern was able to pull off a 34-32 win to force a fifth set.
The Wildcats used that momentum and scored the first four points of the fifth set. After that there was no stopping them as they hit .562 with 10 kills and won the set, 15-8.
“After dropping the first set, we came out really strong, and I was proud of the way we came back to win the second and third sets,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We had our chances to close out the match in set four, but credit Northwestern for making plays at the end.”
The following day, the Hoosiers were in Champaign, Illinois, to take on the Fighting Illini, who beat IU 3-0 on Sept. 20 in Bloomington.
After the tough five-set loss to Northwestern, IU came out strong against the Illini and won the first set, 25-22.
IU lost 27-25 in the second set and from there battled hard, but the Hoosiers were unable to win another set. The Hoosiers dropped the third set, 25-20, and the deciding fourth set, 25-22.
Sophomore middle blockers Hayden Huybers and Deyshia Lofton had good games for the Hoosiers with 13 and 14 kills respectively. Dunbar-Kruzan said she was pleased with the performance of her middle blockers and was proud of how the team competed in the match.
Despite dropping to 0-6 in conference play and 11-7 overall, the Hoosiers came a lot closer this weekend to winning a Big Ten match than they have since the conference season started.
IU will return home for its next match against Iowa on Oct. 11.
“We got back to playing good volleyball this weekend,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We were resilient, and we competed hard in both matches. Even though we didn’t get the results we wanted, we took steps forward."