Tailgates before games, music in-between plays and hyped students in attendance — the perfect atmosphere for a collegiate sporting event.
The type of atmosphere that sounds like an IU football game, but the type of atmosphere new IU volleyball coach Steve Aird wants to create for the program this fall and many seasons to come.
With all the proposals Aird has to create a euphoric environment, he knows the excitement starts with winning, and winning begins with the team.
On Wednesday, Aird added three new recruits to the roster that all bring talent in different areas.
First is outside hitter Breana Edwards from Rainier High School in Rainier, Oregon. Edwards stands at 6-foot-2 and finished her senior season with 652 kills and a hitting percentage of .460. Her ability to rise up over the net for a kill also comes with her ability to rise up over the net and reject someone’s shot, finishing with 105 blocks senior year.
The next recruit hails from Notre Dame Preparatory High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Lexi Johnson is a middle blocker and stands at 6-foot-4. The Hoosiers only have two middle blockers on the roster — sophomores Deyshia Lofton and Hayden Huybers — who stand at 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-1, respectively. Through the first three years of her high school career, according to maxpreps.com, Johnson totaled up 778 kills and 122 blocks.
Both Edwards and Johnson committed in the fall under former coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan, so Aird had to make sure they were still up to rep the cream and crimson.
“When I took the job, I was pretty open with them and said, 'I can understand if I’m not what you signed up for,'” Aird said. “But, those two kids are really excited about the opportunity. They loved Indiana as a school and wanted to play in the Big Ten.”
Johnson said in a press release with IU athletics that she decided to stay because of the level of competition, new arena and Aird's ideas.
"I can't wait to play for him," Johnson said.
As for Edwards, along with the excitement around the new coaching staff, she said in a press release with IU athletics that the campus is beautiful and the team was very welcoming.
The next commit is the first one Aird and his staff recruited themselves, and she’s a Under Armor All-American, the first the program has signed since Taylor Lebo in 2013. Abigail Westenhofer is from Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, and helped lead her team to a state title in 2016. The 5-foot-8 setter finished with 637 assists, 259 digs and 257 kills in her senior season. In her high school career, Westenhofer finished with over 1,300 assists. Sophomore Victoria Brisack is the only other setter on the IU squad.
Aird said in a press release with IU athletics that the 2018 recruiting class brings size, skill and energy to the team.
Aird coached at Maryland last season and defeated IU twice. Despite the 1-19 record in the conference, he said he didn’t think IU was a bad team, they were just outmatched in the Big Ten, mainly when it came to size and physicality.
This past season, only five of IU’s 16 players were six feet or taller, the three incoming freshmen will look to add to that presence.
“The size of the people in the league is absolutely something that separates Big Ten play from a lot of different conferences,” Aird said. “So, for me, I thought it was pretty important to me to get more physical and get more physical quickly.”
The team has already begun practicing and even competed in a few spring matches. Aird said everyone is adjusting well and that there is a lot of excitement around the program.
If you’re walking around campus and see a golf cart zooming around with IU volleyball inscribed on it, it’s just Aird and his staff attempting to bring in more recruits like the three he signed Wednesday to try and build the program up to top-tier level.
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IU will look to build momentum as it heads to the final stretch of the season.
The No. 6 Hoosiers will face No. 4 Texas and No. 19 Florida in a two day meet in Austin, the site of this year’s National Championships.
IU has defeated both Texas and Florida for three straight seasons.