After two losses to two top-10 teams last weekend, IU will go up against another pair of top-10 teams in No. 1 Penn State and No. 8 Michigan State this Wednesday and Saturday night.
Both matches will be played on the road, with the first coming in State College, Pennsylvania.
The first time IU and Penn State met, the Nittany Lions got the best of IU, 3-0, in Bloomington.
However, the first set was a good one for the Hoosiers. Despite losing the set 25-21, they were in the lead for the majority.
“I’d like to play how we did in that first set the whole match because we were really aggressive,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “We’ve been really competitive against these highly ranked teams when our serving and passing game is on.”
That was not the case for IU's most recent matchup against No. 5 Minnesota. Dunbar-Kruzan thought IU's passing was off in that match.
According to Dunbar-Kruzan, Penn State isn’t just the best team in the nation, but the Nittany Lions also boast one of the best players in the nation in senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington.
Washington is hitting .511 on the season, which Dunbar-Kruzan said is unheard of.
In the matchup earlier this year, Washington had 13 kills and a hitting percentage of .800.
The team has been working on what Washington does in practice in preparation for the match.
“Getting our serving going would be really crucial to getting her out of some of the offense,” Dunbar-Kruzan said.
Despite the focus on Washington, graduate middle blocker Kristen Ostach said the team is focusing on themselves and controlling what they can control and not worrying about what’s happening on the other side of the net.
After the match against Penn State, the Hoosiers will have two days to prepare for the Spartans in East Lansing, Michigan.
IU hasn’t played Michigan State yet this season, but IU knows how good of a team they are.
The Hoosiers haven’t defeated the Spartans in East Lansing since 2013, when MSU was ranked No. 10 in the country.
The most recent victory over the Spartans was a 3-1 decision in 2015 at the University Gym.
Even though IU has only won one conference game this year, the team is still optimistic and wants to use these last four games as learning experiences for the future.
“There’s something about our future right now,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “These next four matches we have so many young kids playing against the best in the country and we want them to learn a lot from it. It’s not that we are looking past these matches because they are crucial to the development of these young players.”